I’m not sure what’s going on in the rest of the world, but in the U.S. things are… I don’t even know what to say they are. We have been shaken by multiple tragedies and everyone’s reactions are raw, loud, blazing hot, and loud. Did I say loud?
Please understand there is nothing inherently wrong with loud. I personally have trouble with loud, but I recognize that this is my own neurological twitch, not an indicator that the content being expressed is not accurate, valid, or completely understandable.
The problem I’m having with loud right now is that everyone is loud. I’ve taught and I can assure you that when everyone is loud, NOBODY is listening. The most sure guarantee of no understanding is no listening. Listening is first, then hearing, then hopefully understanding. Scratch that. Compassion and openness are first, then listening, then hearing, then hopefully understanding.
None of that is happening, at least not much in the digital or media-covered public square. Instead, we are screaming at each other, with facts, without facts, with rhetoric, with quotes, with linked articles and graphs, with history lessons, with personal anecdotes, with book recommendations. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never read linked articles/graphs/or book recommendations from anyone who makes them while yelling at me or YELLING AT ME. Maybe that’s petty, but it’s the truth.
I was talking with a friend about all this yelling, and I told her I couldn’t help but think that maybe what we’re missing is questions. Everyone is yelling about their truth. What could they tell me if I asked them questions? Would they stop yelling? What if I said: “I want to understand why you feel that way.” How about: “You sound so scared and angry. Can you tell me why?” My friend said “Yes! Be Curious!” She is so wise, my friend. Another wise friend told me she just keeps thinking we need to “love all.”
I can’t honestly have a conversation with you if I am only waiting for my turn (or taking it when I want because you’re wrong anyway) to enlighten you with the truth. I can’t honestly hope that we will find common ground if I bludgeon you with my reality. I must be curious. I must want to examine our differences as though they are differences, not malicious acts. I must want to know how you FEEL, not just how you SHOULD think about the issue at hand.
In short, I must treat you the way I treat myself, when I do it best. I must treat you like a neighbor. I must treat you as someone that I love, as though your life does indeed matter. If we disagree, I must see the difference. I must observe the difference. I must be curious about the difference and be transparent myself so that your curiosity may also be satisfied, so that you can see the difference and observe it. I must ask compassionate and open questions, and receive answers with compassion and an open heart.
This is how commonality is discovered. This is how community is built and intimacy repaired. This is how we care for one another rather than get one over on one another. This is how we make lives matter. This is how we love all now.