Nature Thrives on Differences
I continue to mourn the loss of civility in our country. It seems our main discourse is to blame, accuse, threaten, or denigrate people who we disagree with. I recently read a quote about civility from the Institute for Civility in Government that Brene Brown shares in her book Braving the Wilderness.
Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process. Civility is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.
As I read this I knew it was true, yet so hard for me to do. We are so polarized at this point I have a hard time wanting to hear what the other side has to say. I have made preconceived assumptions about them that preclude me from wanting to hear their point of view. I have family in very different political camps than me and although I love them I find I don’t want to talk to them. This is wrong–for me and for my family.
My commitment is to practice deep listening, first with my family and then others. This will require me to pay attention, be present, and be open. If I can’t bridge the divide with family how can I expect our country to bridge the divide. May we all find peaceful ways to begin to bridge the divides that separate us from our fellow citizens. It starts with one relationship at a time, and I believe it is probably the most important work we can do at this time.
Peace be with all of us in our endeavors to listen to each other and find common ground.