I have a question for you: In 2020 did you ever feel isolated, shamed or gaslit because of an opinion, perspective, or belief you expressed?
In these extreme and polarizing times where we are all impacted (mostly negatively) by the same event, it can be tempting to become entrenched in one’s own position, and react in judgement to those who hold different viewpoints.
For many, 2020 drew us into separation, and we can choose to respond with radical understanding. The stronger the forces that divide us, the greater potential for lasting unity, if we work for it.
Spiritual teachings tell us that mind creates reality. With billions of people on this planet, can you hold space for multiple realities at the same time? The COVID-19 situation is an opportunity. Ask yourself:
Can you feel the parent afraid to send their kid to school or daycare, who has difficulty understanding those who resist wearing a mask?
Can you feel the senior, who would sooner risk illness and death than be isolated from their loves ones, but who wasn’t given the choice?
Can you feel the young person, for whom being separated from their peer group feels worse that the prospect of getting sick?
Can you feel the struggling person for whom the Government has done nothing, who is resistant to sudden impositions on their freedom?
Can you feel for the critical thinker, who can’t understand why Wal-Mart is open when local businesses aren’t, why schools have been open when many offices have been empty.
Can you feel for the health care worker who is risking their well-being daily, and can’t accept those who violate restrictions?
Can you feel for everyone in these crazy, ridiculous, harrowing, unbelievable times? And here’s the kicker: can you hold everyone’s viewpoint to be valid, and aligned with their own circumstances and life experience?
Validating someone else’s point of view does not mean agreeing with it. Even if a person holds a viewpoint that seems uninformed, ignorant, or even dangerous, can you find the courage to seek to understand instead of trying to shame or guilt the person into submission? Be assured, shame and guilt do not change minds. Pinning a person into a corner, like an animal, just increases their potential to lash out.
So if shame and guilt has people retreating into darkness, what can bring everyone into light? If 2020 was a year of closing (on a literal and figurative level), 2021 can be a year of opening. Opening to acknowledging that we don’t understand where others are coming from, opening to realities other than our own, opening to loving our neighbor even if we don’t agree with them, simply by acknowledging that their truth, too, is valid.
It is by creating space for each other that we can all take steps forward. It is with an open heart and mind that we can inspire by example, and maybe, just maybe, be part of creating a more conscious future.
Dave Sullivan is a Youth Life Coach and Wellness Educator. He is the Founder and Director of The Youth Happiness Project and is based in Ottawa, Canada. Learn more at www.youngandhappy.org.