It is easy to fill in the blank at the end of the title to this blog post with any number of negative words: hate, anger, frustration, threats, empty promises, tears. This week in the news, I was struck at almost every turn with a desire to lash out rather than be still and respond to the negativity with peace and calm.
My years in the classroom learning about Social Justice coupled with some time representing the marginalized when I practiced law right out of school, draw my attention to the unseen struggles that so many face. Like so many of you, I imagine myself in the shoes of the unknown person and try to think how I would respond if I were born into different circumstances. This is hard to do when the other person is acting in ways I cannot fathom acting.
From racism, violence against women, mass shootings, to the treatment of migrants, we can do better as a country. When will we become fed up with seeing children warehoused like animals and mothers gunned down as they shop for back to school supplies? When will we decide that now is the time to unite our voices and say No More? When will we stand hand in hand with our neighbors to protect the ones who have no voice? We can start with our government leaders and elected officials. This is the easiest place. A quick message, email, or letter to our state and national representatives is a great start.
In order to do better as a whole we must start by doing better as individuals, beginning with better conversations.
Real change in our country demands a heart change.
Recently, the front pages of our papers have been filled with heartbreak as people’s struggles no longer hide in the shadows. I grapple with how to respond with love rather than the alternatives. While we cannot deny our emotions, we must allow them to fuel us toward positive action rather than divisive rhetoric.
Statistics like these and these will not make a difference because there is too much room to debate statistical theory. News stories intended to inform seem only to encourage rather than halt the violence.
Violence will not end until we as individuals change.
While there are people on the other side of these issues whose hearts need to change if we are to come together. Our hearts need to change as well if we are to experience lasting positive change.
Remaining Silent is No Longer an Option.
We need to both lend our voices to the national chorus and tell policymakers what we think and arm ourselves with patience to listen to the people who hold views which oppose our point of view. Remaining in relationship we can discuss the hot button topics of immigration, gun control, and discover resolutions to these issues grounded in love, not fear.
The conversations are hard and we are tempted to remain silent out of fear of what other people will think of our point of view. How do you say No More to someone you love who owns a stockpile of weapons and thinks that the guns themselves represent something more than metal and plastic? How do we say No More to people who were raised in a different time and under different social expectations?
Seek First to Understand.
One of my children recently read the classic Stephen Covey book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, for her internship. One of Covey’s principles: Seek first to understand, then to be understood is highly applicable in our current environment. When we are frustrated, angry, or off-kilter, we are tempted to lash out rather than listen. Unfortunately, this drives a bigger wedge between ourselves and the people we are trying to love.
Listening with love, looking for clues to understand the other person’s point of view, will lower the tension in a conversation and allow the ideas to flow freely back and forth. These conversation build bridges rather than walls.
For me, listening starts with help from the Holy Spirit. If you are entering into a conversation you know will be contentious, pray that the Holy Spirit gives you supernatural patience to listen, supernatural understanding to recognize the other person as a brother or sister in Christ, and peace to trust that God is in control even when we don’t feel like He is at work.
It is time to say No More.