And Can You do so with a Grounded Powerful Strength?
I have found myself asking this question often during this election process. For the first time in history, we have a female presidential candidate running against a “non-political business man.” This election has gone so far beyond politics that it’s striking at the heart of our nation. It has brought up issues of integrity (on both sides), misogyny, patriarchy, narcissism, racism, elitism, sexism and most other “isms” you can come up with. The media has done nothing but fuel the polarities by writing extremely biased articles, depending on which side they favor. Friends are fighting, loved ones are spewing hate and our country is greatly divided.
So how do you maneuver through this situation without writing off all those on “the other side”— whichever side that may be? How do you not start attacking those who attack your way of thinking? How do you remain friends — or even lovers — with someone who is fighting for someone you believe to be toxic or even dangerous to our country? And — trust me—both sides vehemently believe the other side is toxic and dangerous for our country. So what do we do? Do we let go of people we used to trust and respect? Do we write them off, thinking they are now showing their true colors? Or do we take a step back, try to understand where they’re coming from and take a moment to listen to why they feel as they do?
Couples struggle with issues like this all the time. They struggle with reservations about their spouse’s character, wondering if they can live with this person after learning about choices they made. Do they leave after an affair? Do they give their spouse the chance to get into rehab after s/he gambled away all their savings. Do they check out of the marriage after the umpteenth lie? Or do they stay and work to make things better?
I don’t have the answers to these hard questions and am, in fact, grappling with many of these uncertainties myself. Here’s what I do know though. In the most difficult of times, we can all get stuck in arguing our case. We can fight like a dog to prove that our side is right and the other side is wrong. What we forget to do is to honestly try to understand the other side. We fail to push ourselves to know their stance/actions/choices/beliefs. Instead, we often end up calling others names, attacking their character or “writing people off”— none of which helps you or them or our world. Far too often we don’t take the time to be open-minded and curious. Instead, we become stubborn and righteous with loved ones, colleagues and fellow human beings.
In this election, I have found being open-minded and stepping in with a Grounded Powerful Strength, rather than an aggressive one, takes a herculean effort on my part. And I’m pushing myself to do it (at times successfully and others not so much). Here are some approaches that may help: Read more on both candidates—and be sure you’re reading impartial articles—not those that are highly right or left oriented. Ask people who feel differently from you why they believe as they do. Stick to issues not character with your friends–just because they disagree doesn’t mean they’re stupid. And, finally, watch the candidates themselves. Watch them. Watch what they say, how they say it and to whom they say it. Watch how they carry themselves in debates, press meetings, rallies and in their personal lives. Watch who they hang out with, who their friends are and whom they’ve helped. In particular watch how they interact in times of upset and with those who disagree with them. How do they handle the “heat”? WATCH. Watch with an open mind and a clear objective lens. Gather evidence for yourself. Step back from party lines and WATCH. If you believe both candidates are liars, then go to the fact checkers and see what they report (again, do not check biased reports—that’s just you trying to build your case). Listen to your instincts—and then check them out.
Whether you’re talking about politics or relationships, the process of discernment is the same. Step back, tune in and listen to understand the other person’s side—just as you would like them to do for you. And WATCH. If you’re not afraid to see what’s in front of you, you will see a person’s character in the way they act towards fellow human beings—those they like and those they don’t’. Watch them in stressful times and happy times. Look at the ENTIRE picture. Dare to see what you see—the good and the bad. Next, take a step back, tune in and listen to your wisest self. If you’re open — daring enough to see what you see and courageous enough to make a hard choice — the answer will often show itself to you — if not in this election, then, I hope, in your relationships .
Challenge: For the next two weeks, get inquisitive about the “other side,”. WATCH—with an open mind not a righteous one. Listen to words that come directly out of the candidates’ mouths—not words the media shoves down your throat.. Finally, keep your side “clean” by taking the high road and addressing actions and issues not characters.