We can’t all be right. That’s impossible. And yet, our country is divided in two sides that both believe they are right. Pick your issue and, without fail, one side will scream that they are the right, moral side, while the other side screams the same.
I have two people in my life who represent the tense divide in our country. They both think the other is stupid. They both take to social media screaming about their opinions through their finger tips, trolling and shaming the other side. So, essentially, they cancel each other out on the large stage of political discourse. Both individuals are galvanized in their beliefs because of the others’ rhetoric. The more they tweet and post you-tube videos, the more they fall into the deep stereotypes they have built for each other.
In this process, they are losing sight of the person behind the beliefs, and they seem to lose more self awareness and humility tweet by tweet, Facebook post by Facebook post. The more wrong they feel the other is, the more right they, themselves, feel.
What is the truth? The truth is often somewhere in the middle. The truth is often uncomfortable, because it is seldom convenient and safe. The truth often threatens how good we feel about ourselves, our lives, and our beliefs.
Anger is a powerful emotion. I was told once by a wise man in France that we demonstrate anger when we are afraid and when we feel we need to protect something. I think that sums up a lot of what we are seeing today. Both sides of our country feel that there is much to protect. Whether it is a deeply held belief about what it means to be an American, a patriot, or if it is a dedication to protecting basic human rights, both sides feel those core principles are vulnerable and at risk of being destroyed. Because of that fear, that need to protect, we quickly move to anger. Sustained anger starts to sound, look, and feel like hate. It’s powerful. It overwhelms. It blinds.
If fear is the spark that ignites the fire of anger, then something must put out the fire and smother the embers. I can’t think of a more powerful force to tame fear and anger than love.
I practiced this recently with one of the two aforementioned people in my life who are angry and afraid. I told him that I understood why he is afraid, because I do. I told him I respect him for wanting protect what he loves. As we spoke like this, the anger dissipated between us. As we started to respect each other’s perspectives and experiences, we could hear each other. I then challenged him to love the people he fears – to love radically – even when it’s risky. I challenged him, and myself, to love even when we think the other is wrong. Love each other, even when they’re wrong. Love each other, even when you’re wrong. Because you are wrong. And I’m wrong. Because I’m right. And you’re right.
Love is more powerful than anything else in the world, but it is a difficult discipline to practice when you are afraid and angry.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – MLK