I worked for a personal development organization for three years of my life. During that time, I met and worked with many people from all walks of life. Of course, some of us were at odds in our politics but my experience was always one of treating each other with love, respect and kindness – in the spirit of personal development, naturally. Ten years later, I think of the vast majority fondly, and a small number of them are still some of my closest friends.
Today, one of the people I met and worked with during that time, who I always treated with love, respect, and kindness, commented on an article I had posted on social media. Because he was in disagreement with the article I had posted, he used words like ‘excrement’, typed in all caps, and added a f*** to express his position – that the American president is doing the work that the world needs and that my opinion, and the article i posted with it, which i have every right to express, was sh*t. It was an attack, plain and simple, complete with emojis. I had no urge or desire to engage. I deleted the comment, unfriended him, and blocked him. I will not engage with attack.
Disagreement and conflict is a part of life. We will never be in a position that keeps us ‘safe’ from it. If you are working to avoid conflict and disagreement, you are, in my opinion, avoiding life. But dealing with disagreement and conflict can be made more tolerable if it is done with respect, compassion, and understanding. I will always respond to questions, curiosity, and inquiry. We may not reach an agreement (none of the issues we are all concerned about can be solved overnight) but dialogue is one way that we learn. When we hear new information from people who are not like us, it offers an opportunity for expansion. Without it, we are simply existing in an informational vacuum of our own design. That is – very simply – dangerous.
It is an understatement to say that we are in a difficult time, politically, and dissenting opinions are running rampant. People are afraid – I am afraid. i have no idea how the political situation in the United States of America will evolve. But I do know this: attacking another person, telling them they’re stupid, and belittling their beliefs and opinions will never convince them of my point of view.
We have forgotten that changing the world starts not with politicians, but with how we, as individuals, navigate our relationships with friends and family. And then, how we navigate through our community, which includes the strangers we interact with everyday – which could include the people on Facebook that we maybe haven’t seen in ten years. It’s so very easy to be a hero from behind a keyboard. It takes a little more to engage with others and discover. I am not perfect at this. But I make a concerted effort because I believe it is our only way out of the mess we have created.
It’s not the politicians who are going to destroy us, we’re doing a fine job of that all by ourselves – by forgetting that we are all equal, we all deserve to be treated with respect, and we are all human beings doing the best we can – no matter what our political identity.