I’m uncomfortable. My stomach churns. My life has been about trying to hold the center line and bring people closer through commonalities. However, that seems unallowable in our current state. Everyone wants you to choose sides or assure them they are the ones that are right while the rest (the other side) do not have the sense or education to understand—are not capable of having their own beliefs yet still understand.
We no longer find a middle ground. We build trenches and forts with our new tools that dig us into solitude and miscommunication—hiding behind media and text rather than communicating face to face. In high school, I marveled at the boys who picked at each other, which often escalated to physical altercations, which in turn led to a friendship. It was flabbergasting. Yet, in our world, communications have broken down. We never reach the physical before we cut another swiftly out of our lives because our opinions differ. Conversations are typed without nuance, with emojis attempting to portray our tone of voice and facial expressions. I often talk out loud as I type, hoping friends can feel my tone when I hit send. Yet nothing compares to arms wrapped around us in a hug, a quick phone call to say I miss you, I love you, remember when–. I long for a loud argument at the dinner table filled with family and friends. Often within the discussion, we learn new things that move to better, more explicit awareness and empathy that closed the gap of misunderstanding.
Today we allow ourselves to be battered and roiled in the rough seas, pulled back beneath the waves with each new fear—each recent change. So much so that when offered a hand or heart, we drag them down with us crawling over them to reach the surface instead of lifting them to shore where we, in turn, could be pulled ashore. We begin communicating on a foundation of skepticism, that disagreement means we have no commonalities, no shared connections. We come prepared to contend, forgetting to listen. Afraid that acknowledging we may have found validity in a point of view that differs from our own implies defection from “one side or the other.”
I don’t have the answers. Yet, I know that I consistently learn, and my life improves, when I listen and take in what I hear with no response. It is a chance to let a different view rest with me without high tempers and emotion—an opportunity to see another perspective. In the quiet is where I can dig through and find similarities and a view of how little it takes for a path to diverge and create a gulf full of misunderstanding.
We all want to speak without having to shout. We want acceptance without having to defend. We want acknowledgment that we matter without hearing why someone else matters more. We are looking for an opportunity to tell our story with abandon to an audience unarmed with bias, preconception, and prepared responses.
My idea is to debate for the side that makes you uncomfortable. Learn about it. Imagine the path and walk it. Study your fear, feel it, roll around in it and let it stick to you. Then make an argument for why that side is right. I guarantee you will find the common threads and find we aren’t so different, and maybe—we might start inching back to being civil. It’s time to seize moments to display compassion. Let’s live to listen and to hear. Meet with an intention to strengthen and build on common ground. Two or three united can withstand the current far more than one. A friend has a sign in her home “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you know their story.” Let others tell you theirs. You may find yourself walking on the beach together instead of fighting the waves.