Many people in the Pathways family have been feeling a range of different emotions since the election: unsure, excited, fearful, hopeful. We may be feeling divided and disconnected. Yet, we know through our experience in the seminars that we are all people who want the same things: to feel loved and happy. So how do we get back to that feeling of connection and acceptance, at a time when it’s a challenge to see anything but our differences?
I read a post yesterday by grad Jackie Endres, and felt it was the perfect way to use our Pathways tools to move past the division, and get to a place where we can truly say “I love you, and I accept you, even though I don’t understand you.” I asked her if I could share her words with the Pathways community, and she said yes. Here is what she had to say:
“I have always sat in the middle of a family politically-divided. Now perhaps we are a nation divided. It might seem a difficult place to be. But my family can love, respect, grow, have fun, achieve dreams despite our differences in beliefs. What is different and unique about my family? Nothing. We have men, women, LGBTQ. My extended family has immigrants, people of different races and religions, wealth statuses and job types, disabilities and mental illness. We are a microcosm of this nation. So how can we find love?
The only path forward in my past is now, still, the only path forward: Loving curiosity.
Just because somebody represents something to me (freedom or bigotry, progress or fear) it doesn’t ever mean that it represents the same thing to the other person.
Do me a favor. Define love. Now, ask somebody you love to define love. Did you come up with the same answer? Maybe to you, love means physical affection, honesty, and support. Maybe to someone else it means vulnerability, playfulness, and loyalty. How do you know how to love someone else if you don’t ask, “What does love mean for you?”
This same discussion needs to happen now. Not one that promotes: You voted for Trump so you hate women, or You voted for Hillary so you support corruption and deceit. We must ask–Why did you vote for _________? To you, what is important? What kind of country do you want to live in? What matters to you? What does love mean for you?
You may want someone’s actions to equal what you would mean if you were to take the same actions. But they don’t. You have to find out what they mean. Maybe there is more intersection than we freely admit. It is so easy to make someone who is different an unreal other. It helps us to label them, judge them, feel safe and superior that we are not like them. But it doesn’t help us to love them and feel love in return. It doesn’t help us to move forward in unity and achieve shared success. We have always had that chance to use our curiosity to understand one another. But now, more than ever, people are willing to talk and respond to curiosity. Are you willing to listen? Drop the us vs. them rhetoric. Start with the US rhetoric. Ask questions so you can find the common ground. Build uncommon relationships from it. Get contagious and spread the curiosity and the acceptance. Share your side of the story. Be willing to get the other side of the story without your lens of prejudice (I mean that in the full meaning of “preconceived opinion”). Come from true love, always, not fear.
This world is not doomed. We just have a lot to learn from each other. Better start studying.”