So, here we are. 2021. It’s hard to know exactly how to pinpoint all the stress we are carrying from the events of this past year. Which is the heaviest burden? Is it the ongoing global pandemic, or the accompanying US recession? Perhaps it’s the uncertain daycare and school schedules for our children, or maybe the rocky US election? So many reasons to stress, it’s no wonder we are tightly-wound and irritable.
One of the most intense things we are experiencing is the divisiveness of any one of these issues. Somehow, we’ve managed to build up 2 distinct positions on each issue, and then we choose to which group we belong. We hold tight to our “rightness” and wonder how anyone could possibly believe anything differently. Sometimes these divisive issues can even ruin friendships or families.
I can’t say that I’ve navigated these times perfectly, particularly with my kids. I’ve held too tightly to my side on issues and been too biased about my beliefs. During election season, they knew who was the “right” candidate and who was the “wrong” candidate – at least in our family.
I haven’t modeled maturity in this area, and I’m regretful about that because guess what?! We are the grownups! I still don’t know how I got here – one of the people who’s supposed to know what to do – but I’m here. Little people are looking to me for leadership and if I want a more united world, it’s up to me to model kindness, respect, and empathy in my home.
So if we don’t want to go all “Montague and Capulet” on each other, here are my recommendations:
Watch what you say.
Little ears are always listening. Even when you think they’re not, they are. Trust me on this one, I have an expert eavesdropper.
Imagine that a friend who believes differently is sitting in the room. How would that change how you talk about the other “side”? It’s okay to believe differently than someone else, but our words can be metered and well-chosen. We can even share our feelings with our kids honestly – I think that’s important, but in doing so we should refrain from name-calling or taking unfair digs at someone who is not there.
If there is a topic where you know someone else believes differently than you, ask them questions! Ask them to share why they believe that. Ask them if they ever struggle with their position on the topic. Ask them what they wish others who believed differently knew about why they believe what they do. And the overarching rule with this one: LISTEN WITHOUT INTENT TO CHANGE THEIR MIND. Listen because you love them and you want to learn. Period.
Consider what another person might be going through and how their experience might shape their beliefs. Honestly, I think we are all very afraid right now. The future is uncertain, and we are all wondering what will happen next. Our fear of the unknown can serve to unite us because when we see that we are all concerned about the future, we can come alongside one another, grab hands, and face the future together.
Advocate for each other.
If your friend or family member has a need, help them meet it by sharing what you have or seeking out assistance with them. If they have a concern or fear of the future, pledge to advocate to your congressional representatives for them. We don’t have to agree on everything before we help each other out!
Community is a beautiful tapestry, held together by our connections with one another. Let’s not let the stress of this current chapter in our lives get in the way of strengthening our community.