Could we be any more divided as a country? It seems like Americans are now standing on two sides of a divide as wide as the Grand Canyon—and it’s impossible to get inside the heads of the side that doesn’t agree with you. What are they thinking?
I’m as outraged as anyone. But on a certain level, I know that’s not good. You see, like you, I’ve got friends and family members on the other side. And the easy thing to do right now is focus on how different we are, to take another’s well-intentioned beliefs and demonize them for it.
So how do we handle what are for many of us are trying times? Yes, we need to stand up for what we believe in and fight the good fight, but I suggest that when we’re dealing with those closest to us, we do it with a little less outrage, and a little more kindness.
I was recently reading a blog post by Seth Godin and he made an interesting point about kindness. Most people give it out in small doses as if it was something to be rationed. We hold our kindness back, waiting for those we encounter to prove their worth to us. If we don’t agree with them, they get no kindness from us.
Maybe we need to be a little more generous. We often wait until we’re in the right frame of mind to be kind, so our kindness only shows up when we’re personally happy or content—and that may be a mistake. Godin sums it up this way:
You’ve had a hard day, it’s raining out, the world is changing, your boss is mean to you, the checking account is overdrawn, you’re on deadline…but…does every need have to be filled, every emotion in place before we’re capable of being kind? Do we have to have enough money, enough confidence about the future and enough of everything else we crave before we can find the space to offer someone else a hand?
Godin points out that when we start with kindness as a foundation in our lives and give it out freely “it shifts the rest of our needs in precisely the right direction.” It rewards the giver as well as the recipient, helping bring us closer to our fellow man/woman and more fully integrates us into our families, social groups and community.
I realize we have to fight for what is right, especially when it comes to protecting the rights of all Americans regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. But the demonizing of those we don’t agree with, only builds bitterness and angst—within us. We end up basting in our own toxic juices and that’s not good for our own health or well-being.
I just met-up with a family member from the other side and instead of engaging in a debate that would come to no good conclusion, I asked a simple question: How do you think the new administration will make things better for our country? When I heard the answer, it didn’t sound too far different from what I wanted. All I could say was “let’s hope so.”
The bottom line is we all want is best for our families, our community and our country, even if we don’t agree on how we should get there. If we look beneath the surface, we might find that what brings us together is greater than what separates us.
I recently published the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel. You can learn about it here.