Civility is the path towards peace. In the past year, I have felt more anxious and apprehensive in sharing my true perspective on particular subjects, even with close friends. I fear that our differences of opinion could cause a split in our friendship, the loss of a friend:(.  I don’t remember feeling like this before? I wonder if others feel this way? It seems that we have become intolerant of differing outlooks on life, issues and events? I’m not sure when this shift happened and it makes me sad. I love a civil conversation based in a foundation of respect, curiosity and tolerance. Giving each other the space for differing viewpoints while maintaining the integrity of the relationship. This would mean refraining from any personal attacks that make us feel unsafe to share authentically.
We would have to be willing to endure some personal discomfort in order to respect the other person’s opinion while listening. Differing on an opinion/the subject matter is different than attacking the actual person and making derogatory or sarcastic comments about their personhood. What if we were all to practice more tolerance for each other’s perspective? Curiosity about how that person/friend/family member came to feel the way they do? Our belief systems are usually deeply affected by our personal and family history and experiences. So deeply entrenched that we have lost our ability to empathize with differing opinions. I don’t do it perfectly, I am only human and some issues are real triggers for me, however, I am willing to strive for more civil conversation because this leads to unity and strength among people. I am growing weary and overwhelmed by divisive rhetoric online, in the news, between political parties, religions, families and friends. It is not OK with me and it is not how I want to interact or be in this world. I know I will stumble but I am willing to risk this because of what is at stake – our common humanity and our sense of well-being individually and as a society.
Self-righteousness causes divides that might never be mended. Fear and attack-based rhetoric is difficult to get away from unless we bury our heads in the sand and who wants to live like this? This is not how we became the great nation we are! Bridging the gap starts in our own households, with our neighbors and friends. This week, what if we were to courageously, kindly and respectfully ask someone who has a different opinion to tell us more about how they came to feel this way about a certain issue? Then, sit back and listen without rebuttal. No one can argue with feelings, we argue about rigid, inflexible thinking and intolerant firmly entrenched stances. Today, I will strive to have compassion in my heart as I listen to others viewpoints. I will give others generosity of spirit and leeway to have an opinion different than my own. My hope is that I will learn more about my friends and that our relationships will grow stronger, more heart-felt with the kindness and understanding that I extend. Let it begin with me! Civility is a path I want to walk down. Would love to hear how it goes, I promise not to criticize only to offer support!
-Michele Wahlder