A reader asks:
There is so much divisiveness in this country. It’s becoming hard to even speak with people I once considered friends. What can we do in a situation that feels so helpless?
Thank you for this question. No matter what your philosophy is, whether it deals with politics, religion, raising family, work, or anything else, there is always going to be someone who sees things a different way. There are a few metaphysical principles involved in the way we react to opposing views, and honestly, some plain old fashioned physical ones, too.
First, we must remember that we are human. We were born into our physical body with certain instincts that are there to protect us. If we sense danger, the “fight or flight” response kicks in, to help us either run for safety, or fight back if we are pressed. When someone says something that we don’t agree with, or find offensive, it is a natural response of our body to become defensive. (Offense/Defense – see the correlation?) That is what causes us to have the emotional or stressful reaction to the things that frustrate or anger us.
There is also the Law of Attraction. Spiritually, the Law of Attraction works with our energies in much the same way as magnets work with each other physically. We tend to attract, and be attracted to the energies that are most like our own. That’s why we are so close to certain friends and family members. It also tends to repel us from energies that do not align with (or are opposite to) our own – why we don’t get along with other friends or family members quite as well. We look for a place of comfort, where we can express ourselves freely without having to be afraid of condemnation. It also attracts us to others who are reacting the same way to situations that make us feel uncomfortable. We naturally band together to protect each other from a common threat.
You see this a lot on social media. Our closest friends are those whom we have been most drawn to, but everyone is different. Not everyone sees things the same way. Not everyone believes the same things. Not everyone reacts to those situations in the same way. Right or wrong, we are attracted to the people whose reactions are most like our own, and repelled by those who aren’t, and sometimes we are caught off guard by unexpected reactions. Just like magnets, the complementary energies are drawn and bound together. The opposing energies are forced apart. That is the divisiveness you are feeling.
So then you may ask, how does that help me overcome my problem?! Well the answer is coming. Regardless of the physical environment around us, or the way our physical body is conditioned to respond to that environment, we are spiritual beings first and foremost. Our physical body will last for the limited lifetime it is designed for. Our spiritual body lasts forever, and has to live with all of the choices we make. This is where the law of Karma, or Cause and Effect comes in. We can react with our emotions, and we will receive an emotional reaction in return. We can say something angry or hateful, but how does that make a situation any better? How does it make anyone understand a different point of view? How does it accomplish anything except to create stress and discord? What are we creating that we will have to fix, or may become unfixable, down the road?
When you are confronted with an opposing view, the first thing to do is rise above any physical or emotional reactions and listen. Listen, not only to the words being spoken, but what is being said between the lines. Ask yourself questions. Instead of asking questions of judgment, like “Why don’t they understand?” “How could they react that way?” “How could they be so stupid?” etc., ask yourself questions of understanding: “What might lead this person to feel this way?” “What is going on in that person’s life or their community, that would lead them to draw the conclusions they have?” “Where are they getting the information they are sharing?” “What is it that they are really trying to change or accomplish in their life?” Usually, if you look a little deeper, you will find a revelation.
Secondly, think about what you say and do. Are you sending the same kind of energies to others? What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What are you trying to resolve? How does the way you express your opinion look to someone who believes otherwise?
When there are extreme opposite views, neither is going to be completely rational or correct. The truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle ground. Take a moment to step out of your own shoes and put yourself in others’. If you were going through their situation, or if you had been brought up to believe a certain thing, etc., how would you feel about the situation? Consider what it might be like to live someone else’s experiences, and what might be different from your own: What would be frustrating to them? How would they need to react to a lack of decent employment, or food and shelter, or a family member who has gotten into trouble, or a school that isn’t performing well? – whatever the situation might be. Use that as the basis for a conversation, through empathy, rather than confrontation.
Once you have explored the other person’s motivation, think about what you might be overreacting to. What is important in your life, and what can be let go? Take that middle ground and use it to start a conversation. Ask the person to tell their story. Use their story as a launch point to show other alternatives in a respectful way. Introduce new concepts with wording that will welcome participation, rather than confrontation:
“You know, I know someone who was going through the same kind of thing. Can I share with you what they did to overcome it?”
“Wow, that really helps me understand. What do you think is the best way to overcome…?” (Let them answer and LISTEN, don’t speak)
“You know, that makes a lot of sense. I understand where you are coming from. I wonder, though. What would happen to … if it were done that way.” (respectfully point out unintended consequences.)
Of course these are just examples. The most important thing to take away, if you don’t take away anything else:
- Be respectful
- Don’t judge
- Act – with Love – don’t react
- Understand (It isn’t about you!)
- Be gentle in revealing alternatives, and graciously accept alternatives that are revealed to you.
- If necessary, agree to disagree – not all conflicts are resolved, and that’s okay
Most importantly, remember that everything happens for a reason. Change inspires ideas. No matter how “bad” something seems, it always provides an opportunity for lessons and growth. Take the time to learn and grow from your situation, and appreciate the blessing of what you gain from it. Put love into everything you say and do. Love cast out all fear. Light casts out all shadows. No one person knows all the answers. No human mind can know completely what “truth” is beyond the fact that we exist. We must rely on what we can see and accept, and there is always something new to learn!
When a light shines from a lamp post, it doesn’t tell you where or how to walk. It simply shows you the way, and leaves the rest to you to figure out for yourself. Be the light that shows the way for others to discover a new path. You might just find one, too!