Most of the time I go on Facebook and catch up with my friends, like memes about good deeds, kindness and videos of cats. I like to think I’m an average Facebook user.
Of course, being involved with politics, even bridge building within politics, means I am alternately praised and questioned by my friends about my work. And then, there are emails that challenge me to walk my talk. Today I received a response from a self-identified moderate conservative who asked me to post a story that represented her perspective. Inside the story was a narrative blaming the President for the shooting of a Houston police officer. And a large dose of anger.
Was I being trolled?
No. We all have different interpretations of current events. I know my journey has led me to be able to “try on” another person’s viewpoint for a few minutes or days at a time. This started when I was a child of divorce, moving between my conservative and liberal families, trying to fit in with both. I had no idea how valuable this skill would be in my later life. Down deep, I really wanted everyone to stop fighting and be friends...or at least friendly. I still want this for our country.
Fighting over who’s right and who’s to blame will never result in a functional family. And make no mistake, we are a big, raucous, bickering American family.
As a self-governed people, it is my hope that we develop shared understanding wherever we can about what happened...not our interpretation of what happened. For example:
|What happened||Possible interpretations of what happened|
|A police officer was shot and killed in Houston.||The President’s failure to address racial issues has caused all police officers to be targets, killed in the street.|
|On 9/11/2001, two airplanes collided with the Twin Towers in NYC and another the Pentagon in DC, while a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.||The government knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks and covered up their involvement because they wanted to go to war in the Middle East, which would reward the military industrial complex. Many people got rich.|
What happened is just the facts...no interpretation and no drama. Our interpretation...what we decide it means and why we care...that’s where the drama and dysfunction live. Our ability to separate facts from interpretation would go a long way to restoring a shared understanding within our American family. Giving up “being right” is the single biggest step we face right now. And we can only change or transform ourselves. When we stop playing the “I’m right” game, we open up our capacity for transformation.
I’m reminded of a poem I read years ago. I have seen it attributed to an unknown monk (no stated religion) and a Rabbi. It resonates deeply for me.
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
I invite you to “try on” a different viewpoint for a few minutes. What questions would you like to ask? Be curious and consider the possibility of changing yourself.