Last week’s essay generated some compelling conversations. Most of them were fulfilling and constructive (a few of them were not). Whether these talks were hours long, or a quick back on forth in Instagram DM’s, I couldn’t help but notice how identical they were.
Almost everyone wanted to talk about….
- Despair & discouragement. What it’s like to finally feel stable enough to move forward in pandemic life, and then have the rug pulled out from under us, again.
- Our own racist tendencies.
- Nostalgia for “normal”, wanting it back (& the subsequent guilt of feeling that way)
- What an antiracist agenda looks like–– navigating the pressure to donate, read, contribute, promote, etc.
- The confusion, and/or frustration, and/or disappointment when family & friends have opposing worldviews that leave no room for discussion.
It makes sense, the global grief of 2020 is communal, of course we’re going to want to talk about the same things. But when I think about these conversations more deeply, it wasn’t the subject matter that struck me, it was the identical tone each one shared. The whole “we’re all in this together” mentality has a nice enough ring to it, but I’m skeptical. If we’re all in this together then why did half a dozen people reach out last week and conclude with some version of “It’s nice to know I’m not alone”?
My working theory is that we’re wading through the same muck, “together”, but we don’t always go out of our way to work together, or support each other as we move through it. It seems to me that the opposite is happening.
Emotions are high in crisis mode, and in some ways they’re dividing us more than ever–– politically, racially, etc. One day I got so fed up with the emotional social media arguments that I deleted Facebook and Instagram off my phone (I’ll talk more about that goodness another day). All these rants are proof that it’s easier to point fingers than it is to change or challenge our own selves. Or, in biblical lingo: We like to call out the specks in other people’s eyes, and ignore the planks sticking out of our own. (There’s humor in that imagery, by the way. Jesus was funny.)
This is where I tense up. Between you and me, I’m a speck person. When I hear a thought provoking sermon or podcast my natural inclination is “so and so could really benefit from that wisdom,” not to highlight my own shortcomings. In other words, I see how destructive it is to create right and wrong sides, but I also tend to think that I’m always right.
For example, I always thought of myself as an open minded person, but this year’s abundance of opinions has made it painfully clear how “open minded” I truly am. Turns out, I’m incredibly inflexible, stubborn, and unloving when I encounter people who are equally passionate about their opposing views. The claws come out, that’s for sure (mostly in the privacy of my own home where the only witness is my husband whose worldview is usually the same as mine) (it’s quite convenient, really). Anyways, a month ago I found myself doing just that––viscously ranting out loud, threatening to disown an entire political party, all grumpy & cruel–– but before I could finish, it clicked: I don’t get points for being open minded if I’m only open minded about my views.
This brings me to the two main insights I’ve been chewing on lately 1) we can’t double down on our worldviews and call it constructive discourse because it’s not, and 2) based on my conversations, that kind of behavior is doing more harm than good.
If we keep yelling louder and louder at each other, we aren’t going to get anywhere. We won’t grow, for one, but also that hostile environment doesn’t leave much room for vulnerability and support, or empathy. We’re in this together, but we feel alone because the fear of being physically, emotionally, or verbally abused for being on the ‘wrong’ side is very real. (i.e. protesting the stay at home order armed with guns, killing innocent people based on race, deliberately posting polarizing viewpoints on social media, writing hateful comments, censoring the comments when people disagree, etc.)
When we act like that we’re missing out on the invitation to grow, all that sacred space is lost, it’s isolating.
That’s not good. We’re dealing with a lot, 2020 is a lot. We need to be able to shed some of this heaviness, and feel safe enough to do so.
With that, my current goal is to keep listening with an open posture, not only to people of color, but more specifically to people with different worldviews than mine. I don’t want to be so bull headed about my beliefs that I add to the hostility, or miss out on the massive invitation to grow. It turns out, listening and responding by looking inward first is as powerful as they say it is. When I do that I’m less likely to think that bitterness, anger, and defensiveness are the answers. Like threatening to disown an entire political party, for example.
I know I can do better. I want to do better. So as hard as 2020 has been, perhaps it doesn’t have to be a bust. I think it’s possible to emerge from this year in better shape than we started–– as more patient, compassionate, and open minded people. …Adulting! …err, at least as far as discourse goes (i.e Quarantine life suits me, please don’t make me wear real pants).
If any of this piqued your interest, I highly recommend listening to Kent Dobson’s podcast, Hints & Guesses. Specifically ‘New batteries, The Marlboro Man, and the Messiah Complex’. https://kentdobson.podbean.com/
By the way, thank you for sharing and circulating last week’s essay. I don’t say it enough, but I appreciate and encourage it! Thanks to you, my tiny corner of the internet has been starting to gain more traction, which has always been the goal.
Looking forward to sharing more thoughts next week. Stay tuned. :)