Differences don’t just threaten and divide us. They also inform, enrich, and enliven us. Harriet Lerner
Keep in mind that the tendency to be judgmental – toward yourself or another person – is a good barometer of how anxious or stressed out you are. Judging others is simply the flip side of judging yourself. Harriet Lerner
Right now we live in a highly reactive world. There is more discord in families, workplaces, our country, and the world than I have seen in my lifetime. Family members are deciding at alarming rates to cut-off family members and never speak to them again. People are switching jobs more often, in part because of fear and reactivity in the workplace. Our nation is so divided politically that it no longer feels safe to have civil discourse about our beliefs and political opinions.
Fourteen percent of respondents in an on-line poll said they had blocked a family member or close friend from social media because of the recent presidential election. In another survey, 15 percent of respondents said they had stopped talking to a family member or close friend as a result of the election and 12 percent had ended a relationship because of it (Reuters).
When we read the internet, we find story after story about family members who are no longer talking to one another, because of clashing on Facebook or other social media outlets over political views. Maybe we have experienced first hand an experience of disconnection with a loved one or perhaps we know someone who is not talking to immediate family members, because of their opposing beliefs.
The internet and our chosen media outlets, allow us to surround ourselves with voices that feed our biases and intensify our sense of self-righteousness. But what we desperately need in our culture is to let go of these partialities and instead vow to listen and learn from those who are different from us. It’s easier than ever to retreat into communities who look and think just like us, and it’s certainly more comfortable. But healing within us and the world will only begin when we rediscover the beauty and importance of relationships with people who challenge us. Rather than reading another article about how awful “those people” are, what if we actually talked to those with political leanings that radically different than our own?
We can have our own worldview and political leanings that are different than a close loved one, and yet also choose to stay connected to this person. It is healthy to be our own differentiated person and yet celebrate others for who they have chosen to be. When we allow people to be who they are, without feeling like we need to fix them, our relationships become more authentic, and we can be more vulnerable and connected with one another.
Take a moment to think of someone in your life who has a radically different way of seeing the world than you do. Picture this person in your minds eye. Take a moment to remember you don’t need to fix or judge this person, but just take a moment to recognize, accept, and celebrate this person just as you find them. Then say out loud or quietly in your heart:
I recognize you
I accept you
I celebrate you
May we seek to accept differences,