The key to moving beyond divisiveness is conversation — one of listening, of finding the common thread of humanity that lies beyond our differences
I pretty much grew up with this notion that if you didn’t have something nice to say, well, you didn’t say anything at all. Need I say more?
What that essentially translated to is: Let’s just keep our opinions to ourselves, gather in groups that agree with everything we are saying and instead talk about others behind their backs — because, those thoughts, sentiments and emotions need to go somewhere, right? And then there is social media. Aaaah, the platform to just let it rip and say whatever falls from our tongues, unfiltered and with a sense of urgency as if our lives depended upon it.
So where and how do we strike a balance in all of this? Play nice with others and pretend everything is ‘A-OK’ — or allow the messy truth to flow in unedited splendor? Is there a gray area?
Let’s face it, the current political status is stoking the fires of chaos and it’s feeding a hotbed of divisiveness.
Political agendas and party lines aside, we are missing out on massive opportunities to come to the table. In fact, we are becoming more staunchly polarized in the name of self-righteousness. Stick with me a moment.
Donning my newly acquired hot pink knitted hat and toting my freshly painted, witty-sloganed posters, I recently marched in a local sister Women’s March. Aflush with enthusiasm and a bit high off the energy of participating in a global wave of democracy — I felt a part of something monumental. I felt hope. I felt solidarity. I felt invigorated. And then I went on Facebook. Buzz kill.
My mouth practically hit the floor when I read a post from a friend that made my heart sink. She didn’t agree with the marches and clearly a lot of her friends didn’t either. Wait, I wanted to scream. Come back from the dark side. How can you not agree? She made some remarks about the march and its motivation. So I did something I typically don’t do, I engaged and commented back.
The way I see it is this: Your page, your right to put what you want on it. If I don’t agree, I get to scroll right on by and ignore it, or even ‘un-friend’ you. Same goes for you on my feed. But that’s the easy way out, the path of least resistance and not necessarily the path to expansiveness.
Here’s the thing: She is someone I respect greatly as a woman, a mother and a human being. And for that reason I wanted to clarify what I was marching for and more importantly, respond to her with my ears (and heart) open — to create the space to truly hear her as well. But that’s often easier said than done because we are so damn stubborn — and like a dog with a bone, we hold fiercely to what we believe to be truth.
Could I have left it alone, rolled my eyes, talked behind her back instead? Yes, of course. And yet, these are the precise moments wherein we are called to task.
We all have opinions…and more often than not, we hold those ideas to be irrefutable truths, which essentially isolates us on some island of supremacy unto ourselves.
Digging our heels in is like sitting at a table for one, listening to yourself speak aloud.
The only bridge between your ideas and mine — is conversation, the exchange of sentiments, opinions, observations. Can I ask you why you feel this way? Why is that so important to you? Can I share the same? When we refrain from the understanding that we can come together and share this, we all lose. What do we do instead? We gather with like-minded others in some false sense of solidarity and smugness, furthering the divide. Just turn on the TV, this is happening all around us — and it’s happening fast and furiously. Is this what we want to feed?
So, I took a deep breath and responded with a public comment — sending it off on a wing and a prayer. I knew I was opening myself up for attack.
Digging our heels in is like sitting at a table for one, listening to yourself speak aloud.Click to tweet
Look, we can find our tribes. We can gather. We can rally. We can resist, paint signs and chant. But what we really need to do is figure out where we can start dialoging. When we draw a line in the sand and shut down communication — it gets us nowhere.
While I’m loathe to use labels, for the sake of proving a point, bear with me. I’m pretty much a lone liberal in a family of conservatives. So what am I left to do — divorce my family? Be divorced by them because we don’t agree on issues or what we post on social media? These are the perfect opportunities to expand into our best selves. Why? We know why we love these people. We know their vulnerabilities and their fears. This insight allows us to connect to their humanness and them to ours.
Yes, it’s astonishing to me why any woman wouldn’t march for women’s rights…until I listen to them. And when we listen, we can hear.
I was proud of the women’s march, my posters, my pink hat, marching for the rights of others, marching with men and trying to make a difference — and for exercising my right as an American to voice my opinion. But what I was most proud of was calling myself out the next day during this Facebook exchange with my friend — for navigating these tumultuous waters.
We need to be able to put our slogans where our mouths are, and into action in our daily lives. When we lose the willingness to do that, we all lose. When we stand smugly in ‘victory’ against another, we all lose.
When we can come together and talk, not as labels but as humans, we win — we put true democracy in action. And that’s worth marching for!
I don’t live in a Pollyanna bubble and perhaps we can’t meet everyone at the table, but isn’t it worth a try? If we could heal one divide within our own lives with a family member, a friend, a co-worker, etc., — imagine the trickle down effect that it could have. I don’t expect that we will agree on everything — besides what fun would that be? I want to live in a flavorful, colorful, world of diversity that has room for all of us. Hot pink may not be your color, but there are 50 other shades of pink to choose from — could we try and meet there? Ask yourself, what would it take to lay down your defenses and give this a whirl?
In the course of this dialog with my friend, I don’t know if we convinced each other of anything differently, or if that is even the point. But I do know that we met in what the poet Rumi calls ‘the field’:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
Are you willing to meet in that field?
I love continuing these conversations — please let me know how you tame the ‘need to be right’ in the comments below.