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If there is one thing that we can all agree on it is that the world leaves us no shortage of issues to become divisive over.
Since time immemorial, human beings have been in conflict over religion, land, race, and a myriad of other so-called defining characteristics that have us believing that one way of life or being is for some reason better than another.
Hardly ever has there been a time in history when humans were able to coexist peacefully. Now, with technology consuming our lives, arguments have become pervasive and a seemingly inescapable part of our waking reality.
As soon as we open an app, we are bombarded with topics and headlines that cause us to quiver or that boil our blood as it courses through our veins. Fear steps into the driver’s seat and at the flick of a light, we become defensive as we scan each corner of the page in search of any potential collision that could prove fatal to our individual or collective set of values or beliefs.
When we encounter a person or group of people with differing opinions, we often launch an attack as our nervous systems spiral out of control and our primitive brains insist, on a subconscious level: survival first! I must win this argument at any and all costs!
From the time we were young, we were programmed to believe that we are our minds and that if we make an erroneous statement, we ourselves must be intrinsically flawed. Similarly, when other people do not get their facts straight or otherwise voice an idea or opinion we disagree with, we are programmed to look down on that person or to view that belief as a threat or violation.
Often, instead of being kind or seeking to understand, we once more launch an attack and anger begets anger. Before we know it, we are trapped in a cycle of anticipation and defensive posturing in order to save face or protect a fragile ego.
What we lose sight of during these moments is the fact that if we scratched below the surface, we would bleed the same. No matter our race, religion, or political affiliation, we are all made of flesh, upheld by bone, and are living a finite existence on the same planet.
Surely, even though we may have separate nationalities, religions, or political values, and so on, there are possibly just as many thoughts, emotions and experiences that—whether we know it or not—ultimately unite us.
Here are some key points to remember whenever we get caught up in the argument of the moment, day, or even week, and become divisive with one another.
1. Opinions and beliefs are not facts.
Although most of us understand the basic difference from a cognitive perspective, the fact of the matter is that in the heat of the moment, we conveniently forget such an obvious truth and argue as though we hold a monopoly on information on the subject. We therefore close our minds to the other party’s viewpoint.
2. By closing our minds, we become unteachable.
Why is remaining teachable so important, you ask? When we allow ourselves space to be flexible and consider someone else’s perspective—provided it is not rooted in racism, sexism, or other forms of prejudice, for instance—we remain open to the possibility of learning something that could expand our own awareness.
By not remaining open-minded to another person’s viewpoint based on an experience they may have had, we deny them our respect, their own right to be heard, and an invaluable gift to ourselves. We in turn deny ourselves the blessings that can only come from the kindness we extend to another person by simply holding space for them, as well as from remaining receptive to a deeper message beneath the surface of their words and the pictures they paint.
3. It isn’t all about us.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own everyday lives, with our personal problems and issues with our families, friends, coworkers. Life happens and we kind of end up living in our own insular bubbles most of the time.
We revolve in the same circles all the time, living in our own universes. So it’s really very easy to forget that not everything is about you, your friends, or your family, and that there are actually about 7.9 billion other people we share this planet with (and we can’t just escape to somewhere else)—which leads to the next point.
4. Remember the philosophy of Ubuntu.
Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù] is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is sometimes translated as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others,” and is an African philosophy.
According to this website, Ubuntu is the name of an indigenous tribe in South Africa, and they have a ritual when someone does something wrong the tribe surrounds the wrongdoer for two days and tells that person of everything good they have done in their life—the point of which is toencourage the individual to reconnect with who they really are (i.e. good).
The Ubuntu people believe that unity can change behaviour more than punishment.
Some of the main principles of Ubuntu are:
>> to practice compassion and forgiveness
>> to remember that every human being’s life has value
>> to realize that we are all interconnected and that each of our behaviour affects everyone else
>> respect and dignity are key
>> instead of confronting others, change the perspective to that of mediation
>> deal with problems with restitution and reconciliation rather than retribution
>> a problem shared is a problem halved
>> promote understanding and resolution over shaming and debate
5. Love is all there is.
So what is the answer to the things that tear us apart? The band Joy Division famously sang love will tear us apart, but instead we believe it’s the thing that will ultimately bring us together—if we have more love than hate, more compassion than animosity, more forgiveness than retribution, more light than darkness. If we can hold all these things within us, in our hearts, then we can move forward into a transformed world.
In 1765, poet Emily Dickinson wrote the enigmatic poem “That Love is All There Is” that goes like this:
That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.
And we will end with three great quotes from famous men. Take a moment to really sit and contemplate these words. Let them resonate with you:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“If people can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~ Nelson Mandela
“Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.” ~ H.G. Wells
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