There is something that has been weighing heavy on me for a long while. And this day, with it's pinks and reds and rosiness and chocolate, seemed like as good day to do it as any. At least there's lots of chocolate today, right?
I've been thinking a lot about how we as Americans, as humans, are treating one another, especially when it comes to the political and social events that are happening in our country right now.
My intent with writing this isn't to debate a specific stance or a belief or a choice because I think we have a more important problem to deal with first.
My hope is to open a door, a window even, to let some fresh air into this stifled, overheated way in which we find ourselves communicating with each other.
Especially when we disagree.
Friends, it's getting pretty bad out there.
And I will say now that it is bad all over. On every side.
We all have issues and beliefs that we are extremely passionate about, no matter how vocal we are. We all have opinions that are strong, that run right down to our core. I have them, and you have them. We, in this great yet imperfect country we live in, have the right to have whatever opinions we want to have.
But here is a truth that runs deeper than our legal rights and steamy opinions:
We are all human beings with a soul that matters greatly. We are all souls that are deeply loved and valued by God. Some of you may not agree with me on the "by God" part. But I think you can still agree, regardless, that we are all people who have worth.
And we should remember and respect this worth in each other, no matter what we believe about life. About God. About our president. About people with different lifestyles. About immigration and refugees.
Because here's the thing. If we are all shouting and insulting, I cannot believe that anyone is actually being heard. How are we supposed to arrive at some kind of good or progress when we cannot even listen to one another?
What we desperately need to learn is how to discuss and, when it comes to it, disagree respectfully, thoughtfully, and considerately. As long as vicious name-calling and harsh judgements and extreme defensiveness and riots continue to disguise themselves as acceptable forms of communication, we will all continue to suffer and nothing will get done and hearts will stay stone cold. And the world our children will inherit will be a dismal one, indeed.
But there is hope if we stop and quiet our hearts for a moment. If we take the time to see that there is a real live person with feelings behind the opinion or belief we find so offensive.
Practically, maybe we ask questions a little bit more. Not the sarcastic or accusatory kind but real honest questions that seek to understand. Maybe we share our views with humility knowing that there are ideas we haven't yet considered, experiences we haven't yet walked through and information we haven't yet learned.
Maybe we respond to hard questions asked of us with honesty, yes, but also with kindness and patience. Maybe we seek dialogue instead of straining to be heard.
Maybe we listen more attentively. And maybe we think a little bit longer before we speak.
Maybe we become better fact seekers, and maybe that means doing more research before we post something. Maybe we seek to understand as many aspects as we can before coming to a conclusion.
We are all talking about letting love win and love conquering hate and love trumping hate. We hear the word tolerance so often, I wonder if we even know what it means anymore. Because when it comes to someone with a different opinion, tolerance suddenly doesn't apply. It's all about love. Until it's something we hate. Then somehow hate seems to become ok.
But love proves real and true when it is put to the test of loving something, or someone, that is hard to love. Love is sacrifice. It costs something to truly love.
It may cost our pride or our rightness or our right to feel hurt.
In our culture today we have got it all wrong.
Love is not a feeling. It's an action. If all we ever love is everything that makes us feel good or supported or valued, if all we ever love are the people who agree with us, then our love is stagnant.
And stagnant love festers until it looks a lot like condescension and exclusion and judgement.
I think a true test of love today is whether we are able to value the person over the opinion. If we are able to value another person over our own opinions.
This is the love of Jesus lived out in the present. To love what is disagreeable and offensive to us. To love someone whom we might consider to be our enemy.
With the rare exception, I think most of us would rather not be rude or mean. And I'm fairly certain most of us don't like people being mean to us. So let's just keep this in mind and believe the best in one another as we seek to understand first and then seek to be understood. Let's keep this in mind even when we end up disagreeing. Because we are going to disagree. But the great thing is that we don't have to agree with someone to love them.
If we put on love before we put on anything else, I think we will find that solutions won't seem so impossible to find, sharing our perspective won't feel so frustrating, and hearing another person's thoughts won't make us so angry.
I write all this knowing that I really need to learn how to put on love, too.
I'm going to get cheesy for a minute and use a quote from Zootopia (because kid movies are my life right now...),
"Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes, which means...hey! Glass half full! We all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what type of person you are...I implore you. Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with all of us." -Judy Hopps
So. What do you say?
Will you try with me?
"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." - Colossians 3:14