Are you exhausted from feeling like our country is being ripped apart? Me too. Does hearing attacks where people accuse “the other side” for being stupid just sound like nails on a chalkboard? Same.
The moment I read something that starts with “those idiot liberals are…” or “the foolish conservatives” I check out. And when it comes from someone in a leadership position, I’m sincerely disappointed.
This language of “them vs us” and “right vs wrong” and “foolish morons vs the smart people” is absolutely destroying our ability to have constructive conversation that can move us forward.
Today, I want to talk about what is happening at the spiritual level when you hear this dialogue and how we can all be part of the solution verses continuing the problem.
But first, I want to give you a real world example.
Over the last few weeks, I have made a few unapologetic posts on my personal Facebook page regarding current events. I made multiple posts regarding white privilege, getting educated on systemic racism and why discussing the #blacklivesmatter movement on social media matters. Then, mixed into those posts, I made two different posts that supported some positive things our local Sheriff’s office is doing.
The feedback this generated, mostly in one-on-one conversations, was quite interesting to digest.
On one hand, I was personally thanked by more than one Black woman actively working and speaking out about systemic racism, and was also thanked by an HCSO officer and family members of officers.
On the other hand, I was told I am not trustworthy to the Black community, and I simultaneously ruffled the feathers of more than one white person.
So which is it? Was I helping or hurting? Whose “side” am I on here?
Over the years I’ve been told that “you are my most liberal friend” and also “you are my most conservative friend.” I just laugh. What am I supposed to do with that information?
[Quick rabbit trail…I have fully released myself from holding any opinion or expressing any opinion based on what someone else is going to think of me. So the feedback I am receiving is just that, feedback. I hear it. I reflect on it because sometimes I can learn something from it. But I do not take it personal. I understand it’s someone else’s reaction to my words. Their feedback says more about them than me.]
Why did I share all that with you? Because it matters. The feedback I received from some individuals was reflective of them trying to fit me in a label they are using to categorize people. Some of those labels may be:
- Is she a Republican?
- Is she a Democrat?
- Is she sold-out to “the other side”?
- Is she trustworthy?
- Is she safe?
- Is she “woke”?
- Is she an intelligent resource for me to learn from?
- Is she a fool? If so, I’m going to unfollow her now
- Is she right?
- Is she wrong?
And at the core root of it…
- Is she like me?
- Is she like “them?”
This is a VERY NORMAL process for the brain. It’s called Dualistic Thinking.
In simple terms, this is a black and white way of thinking. In this way of thinking there is no gray area. There are two categories: those who are right, and those who are wrong. There is no room for anything in the middle, or for both things to be true at the same time.
I spent my entire adolescence thinking this way, which is quite normal. It’s how the brain learns. “This is safe, and this is dangerous.” It’s a protective mechanism…until it becomes damaging in and of itself.
The reality is…most of the world is gray. Hard statements that apply to 100% of situations are very rare. Almost every rule has an exception.
At some point, we have to get comfortable living in the gray area. And unfortunately, many people are not supportive of the gray area. It’s not concrete. It lacks clarity. It involves critical thinking. It involves active listening. It takes work.
I like to say, I moved from black and white, to gray, to a world of color.
Therefore, when I come out and say “Thank you for protesting and using your voice to be heard on such an important issue plaguing our country” and also “Thank you to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for already having so many measures in place that prevent police brutality” it’s frustrating to some. But I am here to tell you friends, you CAN actually be both things at the same time, despite what anyone else tells you. And this applies to an endless amount of topics in religion, politics and life in general.
The world does not need to be divided into two sides. There does not need to be “us” and “them.”
Nondualism is the difficult, challenging work of releasing the labels. Being able to look at people as just that, people. Releasing the categories. Releasing the judgements. Just observing. Just witnessing.
Richard Rohr, one of my favorite priests said it best when he said “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s control.”
Can you release control and judgement of others and just observe and listen? Can you release the impulse to try and figure out which box each person fits in?
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