I’ve already written about the complexity of living in a time such as this. That in a way I can’t quite understand the narrative in today’s culture has become not just divisive, but visceral—not just contentious, but cruel.
And maybe it’s become so easy to vilify the other side because there are people who truly do believe the opposing side is out to ruin America, destroy our children, and manifests evil in their policy discussions. You could easily find people on either end of the spectrum espousing these beliefs.
But here is the thing I think we are missing in the noise the outcry is creating:
We are picking all of the battles, when not all are worthy of our energy, attention or emotion.
And when we become people who are reactive as opposed to responsive—that is emotional, as opposed to thoughtful, quick, as opposed to measured, we lose the ability to discern the discussions worth participating in.
And it’s costing us.
Our willingness to look at members of the human race as “other” from us as we can imagine, and look for the basic and true commonalities that we have with them.
That they too bear the image of a God who loves them.
And that which we perceive as wrong, stupid or evil, may stem from something as simple as misunderstanding.
The pull, when it comes to politics, is to be extremists. To see the world in a monochrome color scheme. It’s black or white. It’s red or blue. These are figureheads and not people. These are demagogues, not members of the human race. We make the opposing view two-dimensional figures who are best represented in the positions they take and not the people they are. People we get to know solely through our 24 hours news sources, our daily paper and our social media feeds.
But I wonder. I wonder what our lives would like if someone on the outside took some of our decisions and decided to build a narrative about our life based on them? And I wonder what we would think about ourselves when we took the time to reflect, to look inside at what’s going on in the depths of our own spirits and minds. I wonder if we would see ourselves as all bad.
I would suspect not.
I would suspect that given the chance to consider our own lives we would be much more generous in our rendering. I bet we would cringe at the thought of someone taking a misrepresented principle we held, or a misunderstood decision we made and forming a simple, concise and agenda driven narrative about it. Because the truth is, none of us can be summed up as a narrative.
We are people.
We are humans.
We are a complex combination of good and bad, wise and foolish, confident and fearful that we are frauds of the worst kind—holding ourselves to high ideals and falling painfully short far often than we’d like to admit.
We are not creatures who can be defined by our positions or our parties.
We have histories and we have dreams.
We have experiences and we have standards.
We have fears and we have anticipations.
We are a juxtaposition of things even we don’t fully understand, but are desperate others understand about us.
Which is why I’m having a hard time in today’s political climate. No one is exactly how “the other side” sees them to be. No one. Truth me told, none of us are exactly how we wish we were either.
So we do the best we can.
We “take stands” because it makes us look smart and enlightened. While making the “other” look weak and stupid.
We paint in broad strokes, because we can. Because we don’t actually even know the person who has created such strong emotions within us.
But it comes at a cost. A cost I think we are just beginning to see. We raise our voices so loud, so eager to vilify the other, on each and every thing—things that, let’s just be honest, are not mountains to die on, that suddenly our voices become, oh I don’t know, what is it the apostle Paul talked about when he mentioned our actions without love?
Or maybe worst of all. An ignorable din. An annoying racket.
So here’s what I think we do if we are interested in ending the madness. Here how we take our theoretical disgust to practical change.
We learn when to speak up, and when to stay silent. Not every disagreement is an invitation to engage. We decide, what are the non-negotiables—what is purely evil, and what is a difference in conviction or believe? What is someone else’s modus operandi, that we do not support, endorse or understand, but is not worth raising our voices for? We need to make some decisions. What matters the most to us? And what are willing to let go, because it’s not a hill to die on? What do we need to save our voices for, and what are we wasting our breath on?
Because here is what I think we’ll start to see. The world is a nuanced place. And humans are a nuanced species. And that certainly doesn’t make life or the world easy, but it does bring some clarity—just maybe not the kind of clarity we were hoping for. It brings clarity in form of the humanity we all share, and the gray we all live in.
Can we agree to extend each other some grace in light of this? Grace in our differences? And grace in the things we decide to and decide not to raise our voices about?
By all means speak up to injustices and prejudices and sin. Yes, sin needs to be called what it is. But not all differences are sinful. Some are just different conclusions drawn from different circumstances experienced, and we may not get it, and we may not like it, but the most we can do, is try to understand it.
Let’s move forward this week differently. Let’s look at the other and instead of point a finger, let’s ask a question. And then let’s look at the issues and instead of chiming in on them all, let’s discern on the few and do it in love.