How The Great Divide Threatens To Deepen Isolation In Isolated Times
“It’s difficult to find someone safe to talk through this with, I find — without being labeled a menace to society…I’ve been pretty quiet about it, it’s hard”, she said.
I scanned the words over and over again. The glare of my phone and the small black type burned my eyes until tears spilled out of them. I’ve heard these words spoken in many different ways over the last month. They have echoed in my heart when I feel silence hault a conversation. Unspoken words penetrate the air and dance between us, for fear of what it will mean to share them out loud.
Digging Our Divide
For years, I have wavered in anger, sadness and confusion as I witness the binary character of our country; both politically and socially. The us/them mentality that creates the call to be completely consistent and predictable in our rationalizing and reactions. I find the call for this impossible to attain. Our philosophical walls are iron clad at times and they are gaining strength and size.
My life as a Registered Nurse, Certified Life Coach, Mother & 42 year-old woman are all living proof that the dynamic of being human lends itself to changing my mind and growing perspective as I experience the new. If we refuse to hear new thought, how do we allow for change? If we are afraid to engage in that which is not our perspective, are we not shackled to our own rhetoric? I worry as the binary world in which we live gains continued traction, our minds become more imprisoned…the new and creative suffocated by fear of hostile or passive rejection. Group think mentality becomes more entrenched. This mentality lives on both sides of the fence and leaves a huge amount of people whose hearts live in the middle, feeling lost, voiceless and without a home.
Deepening Our Divide
We can categorize ourselves so quickly now. Social media paves a perfect platform for this. Like/Ignore/Unfriend/Unfollow/Heart/Comment/Log Out. It’s so easy. Journalism is often governed by one side of this fence versus the other…
Judgmental shaming, often publicly, of those who question the social, emotional and financial ramifications of the shut down; hostile suggestions that all of those people don’t give a damn, don’t care about the greater good, don’t care for compromised and under-privileged folks. I hear screams of idiocy, thoughtlessness, intolerance and lack of patriotism directed at those who are not questioning the need to isolate and are doing exactly what is being asked of them.
We Need More People Who Ask, Then Listen
Isn’t the conversation essential right now? Asking ourselves and others the honest questions that we have and then listening? Isn’t this how critical thinking partners with empathy and compassion? Isn’t this how we challenge our inner dialogue? Emotionally loaded standoffs deepen division, animosity, and lessen creative thinking. The Great Divide as I think of it, is exacerbated by this black/white thinking. The implication is that you stand for nothing if you can’t pick a side. Opposing sides are seen as completely immoral, egocentric, ignorant, cruel, moronic, clueless, irrational, blind, & thoughtless.
How long will we hide behind our obsession to judge, package, label and keep or ship? Intolerant acts replace brave ones. I have felt this way for so long now. Experts share that these truths exist and my concern grows as I see this truth amplified since Covid-19 made its presence known here in the US. I see it in the words my wise, empathetic friend typed to me last week. Heartbreaking. We are busy in our own battlefield and are growing the isolation within ourselves exponentially by not having the conversations.
Do I think people act in selfish, thoughtless ways? Absolutely. Some more than others? Heck, yes I do. But do I think name calling, labeling and refusing to have our own thinking challenged is healthy? No, I do not. I don’t care who you are, you are not always right and please don’t pretend to be. In fact, I don’t trust you if you need to be. I can’t trust a person who will only acknowledge and applaud the people on their side of the fence. I can even love you, but I won’t truly trust you.
The Bravery In Listening
It takes real bravery to be a listener. After all, someone may question the one thing you have deemed to be absolute truth. And they might do it well.
So, who am I writing this for? I’m writing it for me, because I need to process the words as I type them. I’m writing this for those who are looking for someone to relate to as they lose courage to use their voice. I’m writing for the people who feel buried by the rhetoric of those who know exactly where they are planting their flag these days. I’m sharing this for people who don’t realize how their screaming voices are drowning out the others. And I’m thanking those of you who are already doing this bravely. I see you. I’m grateful for you. Keep showing up. Covid-19 is an open invitation to listen more than we speak. To reach out to others curiously, to really listen and try to understand.
I am personally grieving many things right now, as we all are, but this specific grief haunts me. I want so badly for humans to want to see each other and allow themselves to be seen. To feel both tolerance and desire to know our differences. To see the world with rich, vibrant color…where we don’t take every disagreement as a personal attack of our belief systems or freedoms. Where we don’t assume the worst in others. I long for times where more of our media, leadership, businesses, and families will bravely ground themselves in love, hearts cracked open and curious to understand the people who we don’t relate to yet.
A Call To Action
Have conversations that leave you feeling brave. Know the people who reject you for your thoughts aren’t showing up for you the way you want them to, but that is about their own inability to do so. Don’t let the veil of silence blanket you because you don’t want to be exposed in some way. Find someone who will talk to you and then say the words. Let the questions pour out. Listen to theirs and try hard not to take it personally when they question your line of thinking. Remember, they come from their own lived experiences, which are not yours. Choose someone not because they agree with you, but because they are curious too, and invite the dialogue.
Show up honestly & work to understand the heart of another. Don’t try to fit into someone else’s mold. We are humans, not replicas of each other. As John Kim, the Co-Founder of JRNI Coaching often reminds his students, “Don’t exchange your truth for membership”. Speak to someone in the manner you would choose to be spoken to. Acknowledge someone instead of ignoring them or writing them off as a fool. The open heart you give another, is the same open heart you will give yourself.
Commit to allowing yourself to being seen and heard . It is inside the communication, the experience of being seen by another, that keeps us from being locked inside. Connection replaces loneliness. You will be surprised by the newness of your conversations when you open up honestly.
I too feel small in our great big, noisy world…an endless sea of thoughts and opinions. I commit to using my voice, and leaning in hard to bravery, courage and curiosity. I can make my ripples.
Go make yours.