Our world is doing violence to us. How? By pulling us apart, by pushing us to see in dual or binary ways, and suggesting that we must always choose a side.
- Either Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter.
- Either you are pro life (against the legalization of abortion) or you are against life.
- Either you believe the way I do, or your “out.”
- Someone/something is either good or evil.
- You must be either for or against something.
The pressure to choose one and reject the other is taring us apart – from each other and from ourselves. Not only do we feel pressured to choose sides, it then temps us to see the other side as evil. We are drifting further and further apart to the point that we no longer listen to the other but rather we lob verbal attacks from opposites sides of the room.
The further apart we are the louder we must yell, and the louder we yell the harder it is to listen. Last week at One Church we talked about the idea of bridgbuilding (you can watch here), something I am more and more convinced is so important.
Building a bridge doesn’t mean you agree with the other. It doesn’t mean that you throw away personal convictions or opinions. Building a bridge means you actively seek to understand the other, work in areas where you have common ground (there is almost always ways to do this), and build relationships with that person.
Most of us know that it is easier to demonize a faceless group, but once you get to know an actual person from that group, once you swap stories, ask questions, and better understand why they hold those convictions, it is much more difficult. You find yourself closer to each other. You no longer need to yell, but can have an actual conversation – even if you don’t fully agree.
Uniformity isn’t the goal, listening and understanding is.
Here are some practical steps each of us can take to build bridges and begin to see the world in non dual ways:
- Ask questions
When you meet someone who sees the world differently than you, whether it is political, religious, economic, or it is specific issues such as health care, parenting, education, if your like me, you are tempted to jump to all the reasons why their view is wrong. Asking questions is the first and most difficult step because most of us have very strong opinions and and are passionate about why we hold those opinions. Someone shares a different opinion and often we see red; our blood pressure begins to climb, and our heart feels like it’s going to jump out of our chest. These are very real physiological changes that take place. Perhaps taking several deep breathes to engage our parasympathetic nervous system may be a practice we can all engage in to help calm this “flight or fight” response that is hardwired into each of us.
If there is something you don’t quite understand, it is natural for us to fear that thing/idea/person. The more we understand, the less we fear. The less we fear, the more open we become. This is one reason why education is so important.
Fear closes us off to others, but understanding opens us up.
3. Develop relationships
What would the world look like if we all took one meal and invited someone we least understood to share that meal with us? Maybe it’s a person of another religion, political view, ethnicity, or sexual orientation than us. How often do we ignore or pass by these people? If your like me, you try to not to engage with others you don’t understand. This will only contribute to the dual ways we see the world and perpetuate violence.
What would the world look like if every religious person took time to visit a different place of worship? What if they did so strictly to ask questions and learn and refused to share their thoughts, opinions, beliefs or reasons why they disagree. How great would that be?
Most likely, we all have people in our lives, people we interact with on a weekly basis with whom we know little or nothing about. Taking time to ask questions, do a little reading, and be intentional at developing relationships are practical ways to build bridges in our world.