March 7, 2022

Pro-this, Anti-that: In a Divided World, I’m “All In” for Compassion.

 

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I won’t let my heart be divided.

The pain of divisive words eats at me. So many words used in common discourse, social and mainstream media are lit with disrespect, fear, and hate. The endless us versus them rhetoric hurts my heart.

The rhetoric should hurt. It’s not healthy. When something’s unhealthy, our body and psyche afflict us with pain to signal something’s wrong. Is hateful language hurting you too?

Language of Divisiveness in a Time of Crisis

Left versus Right. Pro versus Anti. This isn’t the organic language of a people in the time of COVID-19. It’s propaganda authored by the ruling elite to pull us apart and benefit from our division.

These days, words like anti-vax and anti-science strike sadness into me every time I hear them. They don’t define anyone accurately; I believe they’re being used as tools to turn people into labels.

When we reduce people to labels, we can dehumanize them. When we dehumanize, we care less. When we stop caring, we separate ourselves and unknowingly serve those who wish to divide and conquer. I won’t allow words to stop me from caring.

The Enemy of Othering

Whichever side of an issue we’re on, there’s going to be someone on the other side of it. That doesn’t make them bad, evil, or wrong. They may be wrong, in fact, but we should not let the illusory authority of media, government, influencers, or our friends and family decide or judge what’s right or wrong for us. Because they may be wrong. They may not have all the information. They may be lying.

If we believe divisive words, we fall prey to othering: the belief that the “other” person or group is the problem or source of our troubles. You don’t make me hurt. I don’t make you hurt. It’s division that’s hurting us both. The “other side” is not the enemy. If there is an enemy, the enemy is the othering.

Pro-Compassion

It’s hard to know where we stand when we don’t know who to trust. That’s why I’m pro-compassion—recognizing others as feeling beings who also suffer. In a world driven by us versus them ideology, compassion is a balm to the heart. Finding compassion and empathy for others is a unifying force, pointing us toward common ground to ease our collective suffering.

If I’m pro-compassion, that means I’m incapable of dehumanizing you based on your beliefs. Compassion is a humanizing force. If I’m pro-compassion, I won’t hate you. Compassion understands that hate breeds more suffering, not less. Compassion is born from a primordial connectedness that existed long before pro-this or anti-that labels. Compassion comes from wholeness.

Finding Connection Beneath the Labels that Separate

Your ideological beliefs don’t tell me who you really are. You may define yourself as pro-life or pro-choice. Neither of those tells me whether you’re kind. You may call yourself anti-racist or anti-fascist. That doesn’t tell me whether I can trust you with my heart. You may say you’re pro-gun or anti-censorship; that doesn’t tell me whether you’re willing to seek common ground with me.

If you’re pro-compassion, whichever side of an issue you’re on, I feel safe with you. I know you’ll see me as human. I know we can work together. You may lean right and I may lean left, but if we share compassion, part of us is already on the same side.

I’m not saying that compassion is easy. On the contrary, I think it’s often easier to hate than be compassionate.  But I am saying that compassion makes us free. A popular verse by Rumi comes to mind:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Being willing to meet in the field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing doesn’t mean there is no wrong or right. It doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions. It doesn’t mean we don’t fight for our beliefs. It doesn’t mean we’re forced to admit weakness or defeat. It means that we recognize the weakness of defining ourselves by our differences.

When we allow ourselves to be defined by opposing labels, we become trapped in those definitions. Division stokes more division. From inside the box of labels, we can lose sight of what “the right thing” even is.

When we step beyond wrong and right to the field, we free ourselves from the box and see clearly. We recognize internal suffering and have compassion for people hurting on both sides. From that place of clarity, the last thing we’ll want to do is add to the hurt. From that place, we can work for solutions that heal.

In this divisive world, I refuse to let my heart be divided.

I won’t allow myself to be lit up with disrespect, fear, or hate. I won’t let manufactured or normalized stereotypes break my connection to you. And I’ll do my very best to define you, not by any word, but by your humanity.

In a world that’s rife with us versus them rhetoric, we can be pro-compassion. We can come together in the field of shared needs and put down roots of connection in the face of those who would divide us. That is a radical act.

So, I’m on my way out into that field. Whichever side you’re on, I hope to see you there.

Maybe together we can start to heal our hurting hearts.

~

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