Over the last week, my sense of living in a nation deeply divided intensified.
I’m reminded of the ever-present, low-grade fear and anxiety I felt as a young teenager living under a State of Emergency in South Africa under the rule of Apartheid.
Caught between the liberal politics of my mother’s family and the conservative politics of my father’s farming family, I grew up in the gap between splits, always trying to build bridges.
It is as exhausting now as it was then.
A split nation; a split psyche.
Domination systems create inequity; inequity fuels violence.
Although the details may change, the process is all too familiar:
One group scrambles to have righteous power over other groups; sadly taking pleasure in causing suffering for those who “deserve” it. An endless, self-sabotaging game of “who’s on top?”
We all hurt.
Everyone suffers when people are raped, abused, trafficked, starved, jailed, beaten, ostracized, rejected, tortured, murdered, forgotten. Not knowing how to heal these wounds, we have become a depressed, anxious, addicted and suicidal population.
With 7.5 Billion People on this planet, we are entering a new world, a new story, a new reality. Unless we make a dramatic shift in consciousness, we face a future filled with ecocide, homicide, genocide and suicide. We are long overdue for a system 2.0, an upgrade, a status update.
But in order to effectively work for what we actually want, we cannot make each other wrong and bad in the process.
We must remember that we are in this together: all human beings on one earth. We. All. Matter.
In light of this, I am disturbed as much by the hate rhetoric championed by Trump, as I am by the hate rhetoric about him and his supporters.
Hate is hate is hate.
It doesn’t matter who or what you are directing it towards. The energies of hate have never transformed anything for the better. When our hearts are oppressed by ideologies from our minds, suffering follows. When deep human pain, grief and suffering gets overwhelming, and unresolved, we convert it into hate.
Hate is simply the hardened shield that keeps us split off from the pain beneath.
If we want to heal our planet, and serve a sustainable, life-serving future, we need to reconnect to our shared humanity and the ecological principles of interdependence and inter-being.
Change starts by allowing our hearts to break open: Allowing ourselves to feel our grief and pain without defending ourselves with splits, objectifying others or hate.
We need to meet the increasing uncertainty and disorder with presence and empathy. With solidarity. With humane, healing responses to one another. With curiosity and open-heartedness. With vulnerability and compassion.
Let’s weave new communities in this wounded world.
Let’s embody the values we say we stand for.
Let’s be in relationship with one another as human beings, instead of leading with reactivity about each other’s ideologies.
Let’s rise above our fears, and start living from courage.
Let’s use threads of empathy, compassion, shared humanity, deep listening, healing and compassionate truth-telling.
This work, this new story, this new paradigm, requires a new vocabulary and an inclusive mindset.
The next time you find yourself joining in some version of “aren’t those people terrible,” catch yourself. Notice that it feels good (unfortunately) to speak in smug, derisive ways. Seductive “Us vs. Them” thinking and speaking can feel like a “fix.” Divisive thinking distracts you from what hurts underneath and dehumanizes the “other.”
Dehumanizing stories about others are never the truth. They are a dangerous precursor to war.
What is it really like to be you?
What mixture of circumstances brought you to these ideologies, strategies and world views?
Get curious. Seek to understand, with an open heart.
Even if you don’t know the answers, the questions themselves will liberate you from a path of war, separation, objectifying and dehumanizing others.
The practices of nonviolence, restorative justice, compassionate inquiry, integration, interdependence, sustainability are all rooted in an empathic recognition of our shared humanity, the need to build bridges, cultivate understanding and include all perspectives.
We need more compassion and dialogue.
Insist on seeing everyone’s beautiful humanity – no matter how deeply hidden. For me, this is a rigorous spiritual practice. It takes intention, commitment and practice. And community.
Systemic transformation happens one heart at a time. It is forged through the power of compassionate human relationships, experiences of belonging, being seen, heard and mattering to one another.
The human heart is the most powerful transformative instrument on this planet. Use it. When your mind works in the service of your heart, transformative change is possible.
We must lead with our hearts. With our love.
But how, you ask?
Articulate your vision for what will make the world better; what will actually help.
Focus on what is needed, and work towards that.
Shift from “what is wrong with them” to “how can we work together for our collective well-being?”
Respond – no matter what – with kindness, respect and compassion.
I’ll end with an example I heard recently:
A woman, waiting at a drive-through, looked in her rear view mirror and noticed a mother and her 10 year old son in the car behind her mocking her political bumper stickers and magnets. She considered getting out to address the situation, but then paused and considered: what experience did she want the boy to have of someone “like her?”
She decided to put their meal on her card and drive away, hoping that whatever the boy was told about “people like her” might be “undone.”
(Michael Nagler invites us to fight fire with water.)
As many of you know, I believe that empathic relationships are the foundation of well-being. I hope you will join me in bringing more empathy, acceptance, and service into the world.
What one step will you take this week, that moves you closer to living the life you are truly longing for?
What one step?