#1: Bring Compassion to Your Politics
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, once famously said… “Our maturity will be judged by how well we agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and to seek the greater good of the other.” The power of this profound wisdom from the Archbishop is severely obscured by our current political climate. Differing politics and points of view are tearing apart relationships and nations at an alarming rate. Recently, I read a comment on social media that said, “You can’t be a good person and support this politician!” While the passion behind comments like that is meaningful, the unhealthy expression of that passion with words like those is not only counterproductive but destructive… both for the receiver and for the sender. Consider that it doesn’t matter whether you’re conservative, liberal, Republican, or Democrat. Anyone can become disoriented by being immersed in lies and negativity. Misinformation - compounded by our sometimes-insulated social environments - stokes deeply held fears which can cause us to be misled about the consequences of our viewpoints and our vote. But being confused does not make anyone a bad person. When someone takes a position that you see as insensitive or ignorant, try to see this person as having caught a virus… a temporary illness of understanding. You wouldn’t disown someone for catching a cold; nor should you disown someone for what you perceive as their lack of clarity or their vulnerability to propaganda. Nothing can be gained by trolling social media and trading insults with those who disagree with you. This will only make them defensive and drive them further away from the points you are trying to make. It’s OK to be vocal, but it’s counterproductive to be belligerent. Try compassionate, civil engagement instead.
#2: We’re All in this Together
To repair the fault lines in our relationships and within our nations, we must take responsibility for ourselves as a whole… a whole people… all the same species… evolving on the same planet. Ask any surgeon and they will tell you that no matter how different we look on the outside, once you get beneath the skin, we’re all the same. This is as true with our physical selves as it is with our spiritual selves. Whatever political mindset of the moment someone holds - even an extreme mindset - we ALL have the capacity for greater compassion and higher understanding. We’re all in this game of life together. There is no “them” vs “us.” There is only “us.” We are one human family. When we perceive that part of that family has a glaring opportunity to evolve in thought or to grow in compassion, it’s our opportunity to gently invite them to see a different perspective. In short, we need a “No Human Left Behind” policy. Intentionally offending or cutting ourselves off from people who disagree with us stifles the evolution of society itself. This is not a case, though, for surrounding yourself 24/7 with people who don’t currently share your values. But this is a case not to make an enemy of those people. Don’t taunt or scold them. Present your points of view as an offering, not an ultimatum.
#3: Be the Grownup
Any political season is rife with internet memes, TV skits, and all manner of jokes and satire - on both sides - that make us laugh. Much of this is in good fun, but we must be careful not to cross the line of becoming intentionally personal. Anytime we express our political views, we run the risk of offending someone who will take it personally despite our best efforts to the contrary. In response to simply stating your position, these people may hurl insults at you. But as our friend the Archbishop implicitly asks, will you choose to be the mature adult in the room? Will you be the person who acts with calm and class… who seeks to understand… who invites civil discussion as well as amicable disagreement? Or will you choose to sink to the level of petty insults while feeding the immature hostility that drives us all apart? The way you handle yourself in the face of contentious disagreements with others will be your answer. No matter how much we disagree, we all share a common humanity that irreversibly intertwines our destiny as one human society. It’s time that we all start messaging, speaking, and acting in ways that show we remember that.
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