We All Want To Live

This is a post is part of the discussion about recent police shootings, but it’s not really about that. Let’s dig deeper, move the discussion forward, and talk about how we might be able to solve the issues we’re facing.

Yes, we need to agree on gun laws. Yes, we need to see beyond race. But I challenge us all to look beyond these issues to see the larger, systemic problems and their causes. We argue back and forth like it’s us vs. them, yet we all share the same pain at the heart of this issue. We all want to live. We want to come home safely to our families without fear of being killed the next day.

We inherently value life when it’s our own, which leads to the natural instinct to fight to stay alive. This is healthy, yet also dangerous. It leads to the “us vs. them” mentality and escalated violence. Think about war. It often begins as a logical disagreement which gradually becomes a heated debate, people become emotional, defensive, then violent. This pattern is clear. Is this not the same pattern that occurs between individuals? I imagine all of us have had a disagreement with a friend or family member that became heated and led to yelling, maybe name calling, even throwing objects or punches.

We’ve all lived through this emotional escalation and seen it lead to violence. Why is it that, when it’s isolated to two individuals or a small group, we consider it stupid and think lesser of those involved (even ourselves), yet we partake in this same behavior as a nation over these police shootings?

We’re all being stupid and we should be ashamed of ourselves.

There. I said it. Empty words on social media from either side bashing the other side, going on about how upset or angry we are, and the “us vs. them” mentality many of us are propagating. Even when we promote the idea that we should value all lives and stop acting like it’s us vs. them, it’s not productive.

Whatever you’re sharing on social media, it’s not helping.

Think back to those heated arguments between individuals. How do we resolve them? Set emotions aside, understand what the other person wants, understand why they feel the way they do, and come to an agreement.

It’s really pretty simple. What’s stopping us from doing that now? We’re terrible communicators. As we see in those heated arguments between friends, it can be very difficult to communicate well with one person you know very well, let alone the rest of the country or the rest of global society. It’s very hard to set emotions aside and talk openly with the other side, especially when it’s about murder.

We all suffer as lives are lost on both sides of the fight. Yet somehow, because they are on “the other side”, we view them as if they are so different from us. We put up this wall of separation, stopping empathy from getting through. It’s a defensive tactic we use to prevent empathy from holding us back in defending our cause, our livelihoods, or our lives. This primal, knee-jerk reaction may have been invaluable for the survival of our species in times long ago, but these days it seems to only hinder progress towards a more peaceful world.

We empathize with those who have lost a friend, a family member. But this wall prevents us from empathizing with those who suffer on the other side of the fight. We must break down the walls, care for our fellow human beings, and work together to resolve our conflicts without the hatred, the name calling, and the violence. Be the bigger person. Set emotions aside and communicate.

In the small group settings when arguments get heated, one person setting aside emotions to work towards resolution can steer the rest of the discussion. On a national or global scale, it will take many more people to change the direction of the conversation. You may even call it a movement. If every one of us decides to be the bigger person, we can make a change. It all starts with empathy.

“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” — Whitney Houston

Empathy is an innate ability, but we must learn how to use it. When a child is growing up, they are learning how to act in certain situations. We must teach them to be better communicators than ourselves. They need to develop interpersonal skills, such as empathy, and conflict resolution skills.

Our future depends on it. Teach them well.

If you agree or disagree, loved this or hated it, I want to hear your thoughts. Comment below or tweet @GoldmanMichael.