I think we all need one big collective time out right now – if only we could give time outs to adults. Especially when it comes to social media and politics. The one-upmanship I see on social media these days is quite infantile. And to be honest, it mirrors why we have a President Trump in the first place. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Trump reflects society (not the other way around). Can we all take a cooling off period and then try to listen to one another? Because what is going on right now is not productive – at all.
I truly believe that our only way out of this mess is to start listening to one another (truly listening) and understanding one another. I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it bears repeating (and more discussion). Unfortunately, there’s a lot of talking at one another – in not so nice ways. I feel like people are screaming at the top of their lungs and covering their ears at the same time, hoping someone will listen to them. But, just like toddlers who do this, no one will listen. Besides, when so many are doing this on both sides of the aisle, there aren’t many left to do the listening (and those who are left are so turned off that they’re shutting down).
And if you’re complaining about hypocrisy, please check yourself first. I’ve seen so much on both sides lately that it’s hard to keep track. It seems that people are generally ok with crass, ugly and inane jokes that come from “their side” and make fun of the other side of the political spectrum – but when it goes the other way, it’s totally out of bounds. If you are one of these people, I have something to say to you: shame on you (and please STOP it). Please note that this says a lot more about you than it does the people you are trying to make fun of.
We’re careening off into the wilderness because we are refusing to talk with and understand people with differing opinions. And our track isn’t going to change unless and until we decide to change it. Only we can do that.
How? First, understand that we all make assumptions about people. Often our assumptions are plain wrong. We apply our world view to everyone else and assume that their beliefs are based on the same underlying opinions we have. Guess what? They aren’t. Our beliefs about life in general (including politics) are formed over the course of our lives and are based on our individual life experiences. Our life story shapes and molds our world-view, including our political beliefs. Given that, wouldn’t it be shocking if we all believed the same thing? Also, we were created as individuals. Thinking beings that are meant to challenge and be challenged. It’s intellectually lazy to believe that we should all have the same thoughts and beliefs – don’t you think?
And please remember that political beliefs are, for the most part, opinions. They aren’t fact. It would be nice if people would remember that (hint: that means you too). And note that the assumptions we make about people are not only often wrong, they are almost always coming from a negative viewpoint. Because person X believes the opposite of me on issue Y that must mean that he doesn’t care about [fill in the blank]. Again, when we do this we are making a huge assumption that is likely wrong and is also assuming the worst of that person. By doing this we are dehumanizing people who are different from us. And that is dangerous.
These people are not some amorphous blob of matter that isn’t worth our time. We are talking about human beings here – human beings who love and want to be loved. Just like you and me. Please keep that in mind when dealing with the other side.
Our assumptions are allowing us to make excuses as to why we don’t need to get out of our thought bubble – a bubble where we surround ourselves with like-minded people who don’t challenge us at all. We need to be challenged. We need people with other viewpoints to be in our lives. If for no other reason than to help keep us sharp and to allow us to fully understand why we believe what we do. But guess what? These people may just teach us something and (gasp) change our minds from time to time.
And before someone tells me how horrible some people are, let me say this: well, of course. There are nutty and horrible people out there. People who are engulfed by hatred and who are evil. Unfortunately, they are a part of this world – and these people are part of both sides of the political spectrum. Stop cherry picking your preferred nut-job to show that the other side is evil as a whole. It’s incredibly disingenuous.
Once we admit that we tend to assume things that aren’t correct, it allows us to let go of our assumptions. And that, my friend, is life-changing. Because once we drop the negative assumptions, curiosity gets the best of us. What makes this person think so differently than me? I must tell you – it’s always interesting and enlightening to find out. That is when the magic of listening takes over.
So drop the assumptions and start listening – with real curiosity. This is key. No more rehearsing your next rebuttal or new point in your head while the other person is talking. Instead, open your mind and truly listen. Attend to them. Pay attention to everything they say and ask deeper questions to gain more understanding as to why.
When I suggest that you strive to understand, that doesn’t mean that you must agree. I’m not talking about changing your mind – although that may just happen from time to time. To understand means to comprehend and appreciate where they are coming from. It doesn’t mean you will agree with everything they believe. And, again, that is perfectly fine. I don’t want a world in which everyone believes and thinks the same way that I do. I would be extremely bored with that. Besides, how would I grow and learn? I wouldn’t – and neither would you.
With understanding comes compassion. When you seek to understand someone you will see your fellow man as worthy and beautiful – just like you are. These beautiful people will stretch you as a person and will make you much more wise and compassionate. And once more of us start down that path, we can begin to come out of the wilderness. Because we will have love and compassion for one another. Something many of us seem to have lost.
Don’t you think it’s time we got it back? Until next time…