26 Mar Hope for the Divided Soul of America
“Only 1428 more days!”
“I’m so sick about the outcome of the election that I’ve been depressed, and experienced body rash and pain.”
“It’s time to move to Canada and wait it out.”
“How can the stock market keep going up with Trump in office? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I wanted to see the U.S. go in a new direction, but if I share my feelings at work, or anywhere, I’ll be mocked.”
Most of my office colleagues would testify that I’m a proponent of collaboration, (probably too much) the benefits of teamwork and rowing in unison, (I love sports analogies) and routinely seek to find innovative and win/win solutions to challenges. The “why not?” approach.
All my beliefs and behaviors are under-girded by the core value of love and care for people. My tendency is to be optimistic about the future, more interested in what brings people together, the things we have in common that create harmony, instead of what divides us.
Having said that, it would be Pollyanna of me to suggest that alignment around a singular unified direction for our country is necessary or even possible. However, at a minimum—
Civility is possible.
Respect for differing views is possible.
Healthy dialogue and debate that fosters better understanding of issues and perspectives is possible.
Empathy and care for the less fortunate and disadvantaged in our communities (and the world) is possible.
What else is possible?
Over the past several months of political drama, I’ve sought the views of change-makers, political activists, and influential leaders. I wasn’t interested in ideas that would continue divisiveness grounded in frustration and anger. Instead, I wanted to understand where the harmonies reside, where meaningful actions might lead to healing outcomes, and how to be true to one’s core beliefs, while seeking positive change and movement forward.
After many of these conversations, I worry that no one believes positive change can occur, which saddens me. Honestly, part of me feels that way, too.
If you’re feeling hopeless about the state of our nation, what can you do to recognize the good and create positive change? Consider the following as a starting point:
Listen and Assess
Take time to question reality: yours and others. Recognize where people who are unlike you are coming from, their motivations and the beliefs that guide them. Stop focusing primarily on your own agenda and see what you can learn from someone who thinks differently than you.
Listen through the lens of compassion and forgiveness and not self-righteousness.
True active listening is hard because you must set aside the monologue playing in your head long enough to really understand the other person. Don’t worry; there will be plenty of time to share your perspective.
If there is a key take-away of the past election cycle: it’s not always the loudest voices in the room that matter.
What sets the majority of the U.S. apart from the rest of the world is our financial wealth and abundance.
However, statistics confirm that the average American only gives away about 2% of their income each year to causes/charity/issues they care about. What a pitiful amount when many of our shelves are overstocked. How about moving the giving threshold up to 5%, 10%, or even 25 or 50% of our income? Radical? Yes.
Stop waiting for the government, or any elected official, to fix all that ails us. Governments can only do so much; there is tremendous power in individuals committing their time, resources and willpower to make change.
If you are concerned about the potential tax cuts proposed by Trump, and the impact on the economic system and its beneficiaries – by all means, make yourself heard as a voter. But also, consider using your potential extra tax savings for increased charitable contributions to issues you care about.
When it comes to money, give it sooner and much further upstream to the organizations and issues that have a greater impact on the outcomes. For example, if you care most about income inequality, consider education funding and advocacy reforms as the headwaters.
And remember it’s not just about money. Be generous with your labor, influence, and expertise as well. From the “living fully” work I do with clients, which is confirmed by research, generosity contributes significantly to the experience of a joyous and meaningful life.
Just imagine how much love and unity could be created if generosity became a movement, went viral.
Be Knowledgeable, Not a Victim
The magnitude of political and social issues can cause people to freeze and feel overwhelmed, which thwarts building an engaged citizenry. Start by pinpointing one important issue you care about, and attempt to understand the macro view of the forces underlying the present situation. In as little as two hours per week, pick an issue to get engaged with, researching local and national organizations you might partner with. Sign up for newsletters, blogs, and commentary as way to get educated.
Identify future leaders and candidates where you have alignment, and get involved earlier in the political process. Understanding the legislative system is also important, and there are primers on how to voice your opinions to your representatives more effectively.
Read. Read. Read. Pick three of four major news sources (liberal and conservative) and proactively educate yourself on the issues, not just relying on the opinions of others around you. Take a class at the local university. Listen to lectures and talks from real experts in the field.
Where possible, experience the issue or problem yourself, firsthand. The homelessness problem is becoming a big discussion topic in Seattle right now. Having gone out on the Seattle Union Gospel Mission search and rescue van many times, serving and speaking to the homeless population first hand, I have been changed by that experience. It gave me compassion and understanding I lacked on a challenging and complex issue.
Fearlessness and Failure
Embrace the unknown and be willing to be wrong (My family and friends will tell you I’m good at this!). Change your mind once in a while. It’s good for you.
Focus on what is possible.
Step out from behind controlling behaviors that make you feel safe.
Don’t be a victim, at the mercy of circumstances. Equally important, don’t be a Mack truck that plows everything and everyone over in your path of opinions, fearfully clinging to beliefs.
If we aren’t failing then we aren’t being vulnerable enough with our desires, our compassion, and our own limits of understanding.
God has allowed the United States to be the greatest and most abundant nation on earth. We are immensely blessed. We have the most financial wealth and influence ever seen in human history and I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. My hope is that healing and unity is present more fully in our daily lives. We need to individually choose that outcome more often when faced with a response.
The issues are complex, the stakes are high, and world needs a positive example of leadership. Let’s start by unleashing our financial blessings and resources to create a rich movement of compassion and love that will make the world take notice.
What are you doing to create unity within your circle of influence? What’s possible?