I’ve been musing all day on the outcomes of a heated and somewhat intolerant and judgmental exchange on Facebook last night.
Ever had one of those?
The details do not matter – in a sense they are all the same.
This time, I was in the minority against some quite robust challenges to my position which lay very close to my heart. And so, as non-confrontational as I am, with adrenalin surging I entered into a few heated exchanges defending my entire world view.
Of course this was frustrating. In this type of social media exchange nobody is really listening. It’s very difficult to hold a nuanced conversation about shades of grey, contradictions and seemingly unresolvable differences. Much easier to judge quickly and make pronouncements based on a few grains of knowledge without context.
I usually scroll right on past this type of conversation. But I was driven, or maybe pulled, by my beliefs to engage and argue with passion.
And it was an isolating, lonely and challenging experience. Awful really. Nauseating. To the point where I have been trying to make sense of it all day – and come up with something sensible to take into the future.
On the other side
Initially I was really bothered by sense of loneliness in being the minority voice against some quite vehemently held views.
My initial instinct was to get angry – label this as some sort of ‘phobia’ – and feel like a victim to other people’s ‘hate’.
That’s natural enough right?
But the sense of there being a deeper message in here kept me thinking and trying to get ‘above’ the issue to make different type of sense out of it.
Ultimately, why should I actually care if other people like me, dislike me, agree with my world view or vehemently oppose it? We are all different people and see the world differently – have different experiences, different personalities, different beliefs, different everything.
Given all this difference, it’s not actually surprising that other people don’t see things the way I do. And given all these people knew next to little or nothing about me and my life – whether or not they agreed with my viewpoint or not makes no difference. Really it’s like a puff of wind – of no substance at all.
So what was bothering me so much? It wasn’t having a different opinion to the majority (I often find myself in that situation), it wasn’t even some of the harsh words – it was the sense of not being seen and not respected for my differences and feeling like an ‘other’.
Yes hatred and related ‘phobias’ cause obvious problems when they result in violence of one sort or another. But the deeper, more hidden problem, is the sense of otherness they communicate. The sense that the ‘hated’ person has of not been seen in their essential humanity. Not being taken seriously as a fellow human also struggling with the inevitable challenges of life.
And this becomes self-perpetuating, where ‘hatred’ is returned and ends up in a vicious cycle. I certainly found myself responding in that way last night.
This cycle plays itself out every day – whenever we ‘attack’ a person’s position (whether they are a politician, celebrity, colleague, family member or friend) and forget that there is a person inside.
In this life together
We people are complex creatures. We share many similarities – our bodies are all of fairly similar form and there is an infinitesimal difference in our DNA.
And yet we are all utterly unique. A one time creation – with a singular role to play in the world something no one else can do. For all our similarities, like our fingerprints and snowflakes, there are no two personalities that are exactly the same.
And as I’ve been musing along these lines a strange and quite wonderful thing has happened. The people who last night I felt were worthy of some sort of label – today have become people just like me. People who are trying their best to make their way in the world – and make sense of the world – and rise to all the endless challenges of living.
There is no anger anymore. No outrage. Just a sense of curiosity about other people – who they are – what makes them tick. And a sense of humility – that no matter how well I know someone – I can never, ever see the world according to them in all it’s particularity. And therefore knowing that whatever ‘truth’ I can grasp with my mind can only ever be partial – because there’s endless things I know nothing about.
So the challenge then becomes how to hold your own beliefs strongly enough for your own conscience – and yet loosely enough to allow space for others to exercise theirs. It’s about how to turn on the light with enough brightness that you can find your own inner human – and see the inner human in others as well.
This blog is about ultimately about changing perspective to build resilience in the face of a distressing challenge. Got questions about how Coach GP can help you find new perspectives and build resilience in light of of your own challenges? Contact me now to find out more!