Befriending the other

As I set out to write a blog post this month, I realized I could not in good conscious ignore our presidential election. It’s deeply impacted everyone I know. This is not a partisan post. My passion and vocation are to support the living of an embodied authentic life. As I see it, this means coming to terms with the parts of ourselves and others that we do not like.

This has been the most vicious and divisive election I’ve ever lived through. It’s clear that we as Americans are not united ideologically. This has always been true, of course, and is not problematic in and of itself. Conflict creates the energy for something new to emerge. What seems problematic is the intensity of hate and vitriol that has polluted our sociopolitical discourse in the last year.

Given the strength of differing perspectives and feelings, it’s hard not to judge the outcome of this election as good or bad and by extension to make others good or bad based on who they voted for. Yet, many a situation that has seemed bad on the surface has turned out to be a blessing in disguise or to have a silver lining. I am not offering a simplistic, Pollyannaish platitude here. I am profoundly concerned about the divisiveness in our country. What is very clear is that change is in the air. And the future is unwritten.

What seems important as we navigate this change is to find a way, somehow, to be united again. To find a way to turn toward the people in our lives — our friends, family, neighbors, strangers — who do not share our beliefs. To better understand each other's concerns, fears, hopes, and dreams. Most of us surround ourselves with like-minded thinkers, and to really understand another's point of view we have to be willing to engage in dialogue, listen, and learn. We fear what we do not know.

I share Brene Brown’s sentiments (from her FB post this week):

“Finding connection with people that we perceive as “the other” is our collective mandate. Maybe the conversation will be about something other than politics – something small that we share in common. I don’t think it will be easy, but I believe it is the only way forward. Martin Buber wrote, “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” We are often susceptible to the worst stereotypes and myths about groups, but people are hard to hate close up. My hope is that we can turn toward each other and find even the smallest bit of grace surging between us.”

There’s a way in which we're all in this together. We live together on this one earth. What happens to the earth impacts us all. We live together in our respective communities. What happens in our communities impacts us all. Put more bluntly, if the Titanic goes down we all go down with it.

Can we take this truth and allow it to inform our words and actions? Can we fight our ideological battles without vehemently hating each other? Can we create communities where compassion and collaboration are instruments in creative change? Can we bring the love we know exists at the center of the human experience into our sociopolitical discourse?

Charles Eisenstein shares (from his recent blog post):

“We need to confront an unjust, ecocidal system. Each time we do we will receive an invitation to give in to the dark side and hate “the deplorables.” We must not shy away from those confrontations. Instead, we can engage them empowered by the inner mantra that my friend Pancho Ramos-Stierle uses in confrontations with his jailers: “Brother, your soul is too beautiful to be doing this work.” If we can stare hate in the face and never waver from that knowledge, we will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement, and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.”

I like that last line. Let’s hold a compelling invitation to the haters (including the haters inside ourselves) to fulfill their beauty.

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