THOSE WE DISAGREE WITH
A person who can embrace others who disagree with them while remaining humble in attitude and inclusive in behavior would create the possibility for peacemaking in the world.
There is an old saying that is familiar to many of us - “Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.” This advice relates to the implied concern for one’s safety and security that warrants keeping a watchful eye on what your enemies are up to.
Very different is the suggestion to “listen to those who agree with you, but to listen even more to those who disagree with you.” This is a paraphrased statement made by the recently appointed President-Elect of the United States, declaring his intentions when coming into office. Here, we have a perspective in which one might presume that there is some merit or kernel of truth in the points of view of others regarding a given issue, even where these perspectives differ greatly from one’s own. Also implied is the idea that one is strong enough and secure enough to listen to views which challenge one’s own without being coerced, swayed, intimidated, or antagonized by the fact that others view things differently.
Applying this to everyday life, if we were to take this counsel into the marketplace, the court room, the realm of everyday relationships with their conflicts and mutual judgments and mis-judgments, it would change our understanding of what was necessary in order to peacefully coexist with others. We would no longer need to have others be just like us in order to feel secure. We would no longer have to be agreed with in order to feel validated or valuable. We would no longer have to measure our worth by the popularity of our opinions.
A person who can embrace others who disagree with them, who can have respect for the possibility that the truth contained in alternate perspectives might profitably alter or add to one’s own point of view – a listener who, in a word, could remain humble in attitude and inclusive in behavior would create the possibility for peacemaking in the world. Indeed, such a listener would help to create a world in which all were listened to with kindness and respect.
The key, however, is in feeling strong enough to be able to hold such a perspective, and to feel humble enough to seek guidance from all, without it leading to shame or humiliation. If we wish to pursue such a course, the place to begin must be with ourselves – to set ourselves free from the measure of popularity or approval that we have sought and instead to seek wholeness and inner strength. To set ourselves apart from those who would reject others who hold divergent views, and to identify ourselves with the universal truth of which each human consciousness holds a part.
Aiming toward the creation of inner wholeness and strength, each person would then become a responsible citizen of this country and of the world, one who builds connections between people rather than tearing them down, one who fosters the highest ideals of love, respect, and unity, rather than one who thrives on dissent or conflict. The world is waiting for such individuals to make themselves known and heard. It is waiting for the new American politic to be felt throughout the nation.
* * *