My husband and I were solving all the problems of the world this morning over coffee, and again, the discussion of violence in our nation was at the forefront of our thoughts. We were acknowledging that it is difficult to have a conversation about how to solve the problems without people getting heated, and divided. Even here. Even in this very small circle of just the two of us, who love one another dearly; the issues are so charged, and misunderstandings of intent can easily take over.
We had gotten into a conversation the other night, and I thought he was coming from a place that he wasn’t, and I was almost in tears. We got through that by remaining calm, and remembering who we were talking to, but we saw how very easy it is to go on a rampage and start ranting and raving. We come back to the conversation again with restraint, and choosing our words carefully, and keeping eye contact, and remembering we both want the same thing – safety for our children – and we are wanting to imagine solutions we can both live with.
This morning, I said that what we have in our country right now is a Heart Problem. We have people shouting their positions. And if we look closely, we have people in leadership shouting their positions. We wondered aloud what would happen if everyone who has an audience stopped for a moment, and got themselves into a place of wholeheartedness before speaking. What would that look like?
If we as a people expected more from our leaders – and I’m not just speaking about those in the government, but it’s a good idea there too. I mean everyone with an audience – radio personalities, television commentators and newscasters, preachers and teachers, moms and dads. Every single one of us has an audience. And every single one of us needs to take some breaths and focus on being a little more wholehearted.
What does a wholehearted discussion entail? It would mean no blaming, no blanket statements about any group of people who are somehow at fault for all our ills. It would mean no feeding fear or fanning the flames of hysteria. It would require every single grown-up to step up to the plate and act like a grown-up, and speak calmly, and use rational, non-judgmental language. We have become a nation of outrage, of ranting and raving, of pointing fingers, and escalating decibels.
We are somehow excited by madmen in positions of power, of people foaming at the mouth and telling us it’s okay to hold onto hate, and then we wonder why hate-filled people are shooting at children.
Somehow, we have to each step back from anger, from rage, from disgruntled, from us and them, from grandstanding and thinking if people just thought and acted like us, everything would be okay. People are going to think and act how they are raised to think and act. We have to be able to come to the table with every power of persuasion, and yet none of the anger. If we are shaking our fists right along with our televisions, we are sending our kids to school ranting and raving about things they understand very little, but are willing to fight over nonetheless. I know this because my sixth-grader has friends who are spouting hatred about politics and politicians that they have learned at home and from watching leaders on television.
Don’t we want to turn the tide of hatred and discord in our country? We can’t do that by trying to force our beliefs on others, but by standing very securely within our beliefs and claiming the whole teaching we have learned from within that belief structure. If your belief says to pray, then pray with your whole heart and let that prayer settle your heart so that you can come to a discussion wholehearted. Whatever our system of belief teaches us, somewhere in there, surely, is the idea that kindness and calmness will open a dialogue better than blathering, and storming in with loud voices or pointing fingers.
If we accepted less violence from those with an audience, those with a platform would have to start tailoring their approach to be civilized. If we required civil dialogue from those in charge, they would stop acting like wrestlers getting paid to be outrageous, and throw chairs and pull hair and body slam opponents. Our leaders have grown their audiences by appealing to our basest, bloodiest, most immature need for drama. Can we grow up where it matters the most, and learn to speak to one another about the real problems with wholehearted, true discussion?
I don’t know if we can expect this sort of transformation in our country. But we can make sure than here in our home, when the discussion of world events happens around our table, we continue leading by example, and try to see issues from both sides, and see the value in the opposing view, and treat the discussion with respect for all parties, even the ones we disagree with.
I feel like I might be ranting here about wishing there were less ranting and raving going on. I want my own outlook to be one of wholeheartedness, and I want to listen and be approachable. I don’t want to tune someone out because I believe they are coming from an opposite point of view. I want to hear the options being put forth, and I want to keep my heart with all diligence. I want my kids to know that we can discuss anything – there are no subjects off limits here at our table – and we can discuss anything with dignity.
photo from here
One thought on “If a Genie Could Grant us Wholeheartedness”
I do wish people were more motivated to behave as you have in respectful discussions of problems. But I don’t believe it’s naturally inclined behavior, and it requires training and practice.
Humans are mammals, of no greater or lesser value in the full ecosystem than horses, wolves, bears or whales. We have different skills, as each other species does; advanced tool making and an interest in self-deception through mental constructs (art, politics, religion), but we act from the identical set of desires and drives (hunger, procreation, protection of offspring and mates) as our Cro-Magnon ancestors did, and we share those with the other mammals.
We compete for resources, defend territories, fear and act aggressively toward individuals and groups we perceive as “too different” (xenophobia, racism, war). A lot of human energy is expended maintaining the pretense that we aren’t animals, or are special animals, when the truth is that every animal is special and has a vital function in a complex system.
It’s going to be harder to achieve permanent progress toward solving our problems until we can first face the reality of our own nature, our own genetic programming.