Author: Bryan Worthington
“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” – Jimmy Carter
Have you ever gotten into an argument or had a strong reaction to world or personal events? No? You may not be a human, go make a doctor’s appointment.
For those who have had a strong emotional reaction to comments or posts made by a friend, relative, or a forgotten Facebook acquaintance, I want you to try something: step back. Not literally (though that may be needed in some cases), but try to view the situation from different perspective.
It seems like everybody knows that his or her opinion is absolutely and unquestionably right and when someone challenges our idea of what is right, we have to tell them why they are wrong, right? Everything is either right or wrong and somebody needs to win. What if, no matter how black or white something looks to you, it’s actually a shade of gray based on a person’s upbringing, religion, socioeconomic status, race, or any number of factors that you know nothing about.
What if, instead of having a reactive response of yelling and trying to make that person think the way you think, you slowed down, validated their perspective, and responded with compassion?
Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of people have posted their opinion on social media regarding world events. Some of these points of view are helpful and some are hurtful. It is hard to be compassionate to someone saying hurtful things, but this is when it is most important. I mostly let posts on social media slide, but after seeing meme after meme perpetuating the same hurtful information, I could no longer remain silent. I immediately thought of things to say that would hurt or shame the other party. I wasn’t going to open up on facebook and lose an argument.
1.) I slowed down – I remembered that I was not responding to a bad person, I was responding to an opinion that differed from mine.
2.) I validated their response – This person was not necessarily wrong, I was not necessarily right. I found the common ground of our disagreement and worked from there.
3.) I responded with compassion – It is hard to get into a name-calling fight with someone who is being kind. It is also more likely that the other person will listen to what you have to say.
Being compassionate and kind to someone’s point of view does not mean you agree with them. You have to remember that they are coming from a place of strong belief and experienced life. Even members of the same family, where it would seem people would share perspectives, often do not.
Most of the time your best bet is to mind your own business. It’s almost never about you, anyway. Ask yourself if it’s worth it to engage? Which issues are worth it to engage (e.g. racism, misogyny, homophobia, but this list is not exhaustive)? I have an obligation to be mindful that as a heterosexual white man, I have privileges and a platform that must be used to promote social justice. How can I engage while respecting their perspective? If you can’t let it slide because you feel you have a moral obligation to respond, try to be kind in your engagement.
“Luke, you are going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view” – Obi Wan Kenobi