The last few days have been difficult, to say the least. Our world is in pain. On many levels, we are witnessing chaos. It can be hard to process emotionally and even, intellectually, all of the violence here at home and abroad. There are many passionate opinions, devastating details, and suggestions for solutions. But, the problem seems too big to solve in one dogmatic article, one particular president, or even one specific religion.
I am a firm believer in the statement, “chaos precedes change.” Historically, there have been countless paradigm shifts towards our evolution as a society. These shifts start with a certain group of marginalized individuals becoming aware of their legitimate worth, the worth of their voice. Therefore, their desire to create change in order to be heard and valued begins.
Obviously, anger is an energizing emotion and also, a connecting one. Anger is not about detachment, it’s about wanting to be heard, to be valued. Those of us who have been privileged enough to experience being heard and felt valued sometimes don’t understand the level of frustration these oppressed populations exhibit. Their anger, unfortunately, many times turns to violence. Tantrums ensue. Radical positions taken. Blame is tossed around. Efforts to control outcomes take an extreme turn. Dialogue stops across perspectives. We each decide our voice is more important, so we surround ourselves with information and feedback that echoes our own opinion. Our own voice. This snowballs the anger and control mechanisms. Who is the loudest? Who has the most stamina for their anger? Who has the most leverage and power? Who has the least to lose? All these questions come into play when trying to be valued, trying to be heard, trying to be accepted..loved. On a significantly smaller scale, this is the same domino effect that happens in every day arguments. Both people want to be heard, but neither is, so they start using other tactics. Yelling, name calling, withholding, force, pleading and stamina are all ways to try to manipulate the outcome. These tactics tend to work in the short term. We may get temporary compliance rooted in fear or exhaustion. But, long term change takes something different. Listening to multiple perspectives with an agenda to understand the feelings behind the content is vital to long term progress. Unfortunately, that seems to be in short supply both in our homes and in our world.
What can we do? We can begin in our homes by thoughtful parenting and redefining how we disagree with one another, not only between adults but with our children too. We should be modeling respectful communication for our children to mimic throughout their lives. It starts with the small things; agreeing to disagree, empowering them with certain choices, showing empathy for their opinion, and staying in a place of non judgement while maintaining personal boundaries. This will be difficult for many. It will seem counterintuitive and unnatural. However, raising individuals who are capable of keeping an open mind and listening without trying to control means raising an adult that has experienced self worth through being heard themselves and their opinions and perspectives being respected. That experience for children is invaluable to creating a world where people are more capable at accepting differences and creating space for other’s voices and worth.
And how about the way we interact with our partner? How much space do we give them to be heard, to express their truth? Or are we using the same manipulative strategies on the one’s closest to us too? Try listening to the feeling behind the content. Respond to that feeling rather than focusing on the reasons why the content of what they are saying is wrong.
Practice at HOME being accepting and empathic. Watch how it starts adjusting your interactions at work and with your community. Notice how much you need to be heard versus hearing others. Ask yourself what world you are contributing to when you interact on social media or with your family and friends. Listen. Stay curious. Show empathy for someone’s feelings, no matter if you can understand WHY they feel the way they do. Undoubtedly, you have personally FELT that feeling before..connect with that. And lastly, remember that love is around the corner from acceptance. And love is what helps us thrive, hate is what kills us.
I realize this doesn’t fix our current situation, but it is a start to acknowledging our personal responsibility to our children’s future. We may not see a tremendous change in our lifetime, but reconsider your methods, reconsider your superior thinking, reconsider the power of empathic listening.
I can honestly say that receiving these gifts from people along the way has been transformative and has encouraged my ability to help others.
Our world is starving for love. Choose to give to the hungry today.
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