What if we all entered every conversation with the belief that we have something to learn from the other? What if, instead of being defensive or trying to prove why we are right, we instead entered a conversation to learn something from the other person? What if our desires were simply that pure every time we engaged with another human? How would that change things?
This concept and blog post has been brewing up inside me for quite awhile now – particularly because of the social climate 2016 brought to our relationships and to our country. I have lived and worked in many different places with people from many walks of life (like many of you have as well). I have extremely conservative friends, extremely liberal friends, and friends of everything in between. I’ve sat and watched friends, loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers become easily enraged in conversations about not only politics, but about anything that might differ from one’s own viewpoint.
Much of the hostility stems from the very limited ability to communicate effectively on social media. A thought, idea, or impassioned viewpoint is thrown out in a brief post and poised for anyone to react. React is the important word there, I think. Social media posts are intended to cause a reaction, to stir something in people in some way – not necessarily in grandiose ways, but they are meant to encourage thought or excitement or some sort of emotion. A post is cast out to the wolves of the social media world, and there it sits, awaiting the impending ‘likes’ or the lack thereof as well as personal commentary from every direction.
We have become a people that is constantly on the defense. This disposition comes from becoming a people that is constantly feeling hurt by others. I don’t mean to discredit your hurt or your emotions. Your emotions are yours and they are valid, but the fact that we are so easily offended and hurt comes from a space of having forgotten who we are. When we go to speak on our own, we then carry that hurt and pain and it often causes us to speak out in frustration, fear, or just simply from feeling so incredibly tired… tired of feeling so forgotten or ignored or discredited.
So it’s a vicious cycle, you see. Most of the time, in most cases, I don’t think people (particularly your own family and friends and acquaintances) really intend to hurt you or you to them – especially not because you simply have differing opinions and a differing perspective on the world. In actuality, if two people of completely opposing views, and red-hot emotions about those views, were to enter into conversation with an openness to learn something (anything) from the other person, they would both be permitted a unique intimacy with the other that they may have never been able to experience previously due to blazing emotions and well-intentioned passion.
I have read social media post after post throughout this election process from dear friends that lie on both sides of the party lines and have felt great sorrow in my heart on many accounts. Why? Because I felt their pain, but I also felt their anger being spat upon their loved ones. I felt their hurt, yet I felt their rage being hurled at me simultaneously. Time and time again when people have disagreed and began to engage in a conversation about that disagreement, words like ‘idiot,’ ‘moron,’ and any similar disparaging remark would be slung back and forth, as if to somehow justify who is right and wrong. These words and this approach just deepen the wounds, my friends. You are not drawing one another together, you are deepening the divide. I know it’s probably not your intention and you just want to be heard and understood and more than anything, loved. Still we must be cognizant of the way in which we strive to be heard and understood and loved. We must be aware of the way in which we speak to one another.
More importantly, we must remember who we are. Have you forgotten who you are? Are you having trouble coming up with the answer to this question?
Your identity is not complicated. YOU ARE A BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
Yes, you may be an American (or whatever distinguishing feature you desire to insert here), but your most simple and singular identity is not as an American, it is as a child of God, and that one simple identifier is the most important thing about you, whether you believe it or not. To know who you are in Christ and to be confident in the knowing of who you are shapes the kind of person you are to become and dictates the way in which you interact with other people.
When you get to a place where you are able to undoubtedly claim who you are, to assert your name as daughter or son of the Father, you are then provoked to begin acting like it, and living up to your true identity.
Do you know who you are and are you shaping yourself accordingly?
When you are conscious of these two questions and moving toward them with fierce devotion, there is no longer any room left to enter into conversations with other people spewing words that you really don’t want to own. Do you really want to be the person that points the finger and lambasts another? Do you really want to be a person that ridicules others and must be right at all times?
Maybe you do, and I guess if you do desire to own those characteristics, you would be much like the people who crucified Jesus and brought Him to His death. Didn’t they do the exact same things to Him? Didn’t they come at Him in haste and anger? Didn’t they try to prove Him wrong on all accounts? Didn’t they mock Him and call Him names?
How are you treating your brothers and sisters in Christ? How are you treating yourself?
Hostile conversations help nothing. I’m not saying you have to agree (that’s an entirely different thing). What I am saying is, do yourself a favor and be better than all of that. Maybe as we move forward we can all aim to enter conversation with each other keeping a mindset that we do certainly have something, anything to learn.
Own your identity as a child of God and walk into this world striving to live it out. Live it out loud and live it in love.