Hello and welcome to Friday, February 14, 2020! This is a rare and precious Valentine’s Day that will never come again. And though it may not seem like it at first, this week’s topic really is focused on love – the unconditional variety!
Without voicing any opinions, statements or judgments regarding the innocence or guilt of President Trump, what was reconfirmed to me after the recent Senate impeachment trial is that so many people are more concerned with being true to their tribe than seeking the truth.
It’s comforting to sit around and have meaningful conversations with like-minded friends. It’s a safe environment to voice concerns, rant and let some steam off meow and then. I get it, I really do. I appreciate my like-minded friends and I wholeheartedly believe they’re important in our lives. I want to stress that I am in no way trying to communicate in this piece that we should abandon our like-minded communities! Absolutely not! What I am awakening to, however, is the potential detrimental effects they can have on our society. As we become more comfortable within our groups, if we are unmindful, our friendships may trend towards being less about common interests and more about common enemies.
In our like-minded groups, it’s easy to allow ourselves to be condescending towards those who don’t have the same beliefs. This patronizing superiority can often become dehumanizing. I have heard Trump referred to as a “disgusting pig” and that “democrats are not even human.” As history will confirm, this prejudiced dehumanization is the first step towards genocide!
As our like-minded conversations regarding “those people” progress, we may focus more and more on what we consider deplorable and less and less on all their other qualities. “Their” preposterous opinions on one or two “hot topic issues” becomes who they are! We tend to lose sight of the fact that just like us, they are trying to find happiness and avoid suffering. We tend to forget that just like us, they have all know despair, sadness and pain. We can’t seem to recall that just like us, they are doing the very best they can to get their needs met and are learning how to live and navigate this messy world without a comprehensive “how to” manual.
As I was reading Brene’ Brown’s “Braving Wilderness,” (This book is the motivation driving this week’s letter and I highly recommend it!) I was reminded that we are each much more than the one or two characteristics, beneficial or unbeneficial, that we tend to only focus on. The following are not the same examples that Brene’ uses, but hopefully they are as effective: We tend to forget that the conservative is the same person who laboriously works from sunup to sundown to grow the fresh vegetables we buy at the farmers market. We tend to forget that the liberal is the nurse caring for our mother in the assisted living facility. We lose site of the fact that the republican has a sick child at home yet still volunteers at the soup kitchen each and every Sunday. We can’t seem to recall that the one battling cancer and chooses to sit at the bedside of others having received the same diagnosis is a democrat. The person that just opened the door for you is liberal. The person that just let you merge in front of them is conservative. Should I stop? No! One more: That sister in-law of yours who takes wonderful care of your family, she is a great mother, works tirelessly all day then comes home and helps your sibling cook and clean. Because she adores cats, she also volunteers at the veterinary clinic. She is an active PTA member. She is kind, courteous and is always available to help; she rushed you to the hospital when you were very ill and yet, she is a… fill in the blank! In our conversations with our like-minded friends, we sometimes forget this reality.
If we are not mindful of the nature of our conversations within our like-minded groups, our conversations may create more division and polarization. As we get more comfortable using “our” language, it becomes increasingly more difficult to have conversations with people who disagree with us. It seems to me that we are unlearning how to be civil, kind and respect one another for who “they” are: a rare and precious living being doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. We all want to be accepted for who we are yet how often are we accepting of others? There is common ground.
Each one of us are concerned with safety, getting our needs met, finding happiness and avoiding suffering.
As we look more for similarities than differences, humanness emerges. We see that we are much more than the limiting labels that we use to define individuals and groups. As we become a little more curious about how others perceive the world, we can better understand their points of view. But we cannot do this from within our own like-minded groups. Though I can’t recall the exact quote, Brene’ Brown suggests, ‘if someone bothers you, move closer.’
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!
Prying myself open,
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