There’s been a lot of noise lately. Whichever side you may find yourself on, it is emotionally taxing to hear all the negativity flying about. I’m not about to dive into politics or what’s right and wrong. My purpose here to look at what I can change about myself, and the polarized climate right now has really got me thinking about how I respond to it. Generally, polarization inspires people to speak some pretty hateful words to each other. It’s heartbreaking to hear how people are responding to each other because it casts darkness into a world in desperate need of more light.
In emotionally charged moments, we forget that each of us can make a choice to shine light instead.
I believe in the beauty of the human soul. I believe that no matter how angry you are, you can understand this heartbreak too. So why do we try to fight belittling language with more belittling language? We seem to be forgetting about grace. In my spiritual home this weekend, the message was about growing from the soil of grace. Grace was defined as seeing the masterpiece in others. When we experience others doing things that offend us, it triggers us. All we can see in that moment is the offense, and we forget that this person is a masterpiece. To be honest, we all do things that are triggering. Some days even my own actions look more like a landfill than a masterpiece.
But even in a landfill, you can find a symphony.
What gets in the way of seeing the masterpiece in others? I can think of a few things, but it tends to start with an inability to see the masterpiece in ourselves. When we respond in defensiveness and blame, we are protecting something within us that we haven’t resolved. A fear that we haven’t examined. It’s not really about the other person. What you may not think about is blame can be a form of emotional abuse. I see a lot of emotional abuse these days from both sides of the political sphere. I see strangers and friends engaging in discussions that are a steady stream of blaming, name calling, criticism, shaming, belittling, gaslighting, and refusal to communicate at all. All of this is emotional abuse. I’ve had discussions about this observation with friends and family, and I’m crushed when the response is, “It’s just semantics.”
It is semantics. But semantics matter. Semantics can bring us together or tear us apart. Semantics can shine light or cast darkness.
I don’t know about you, but I want to shine light. I want to love the masterpiece in someone else, even if that means they have a viewpoint or belief that I find hard to accept. Honestly, the viewpoint doesn’t make the person. The experience a person has had in life is what brought them to their viewpoint. When we tell someone they are wrong or they are overreacting, we invalidate the experience of their life. We wound them. Hearts don’t turn that way. If you want to turn a heart and make a difference, you have to lean in to discomfort and be more curious about the experience of a person. When two people feel understood they feel safe. Meaningful discourse can only happen from a place of safety. Change only comes from meaningful discourse.
That kind of vulnerability is scary.
In our culture our beliefs are so tied to our identity, we may feel we risk losing ourselves. But your beliefs don’t make you. Your beliefs come from your experiences. If they flex and change, you won’t lose yourself. You will gain compassion and grace and relationships that will enrich your life. You may even change the world.
In recent years I’ve developed an affinity for lighthouses. Lighthouses guide ships on dark seas away from obstacles and safely to shore. I want to be a lighthouse, a safe haven, a source of light. I fail at this on a daily basis. So I’m going to set my intention this week to honor the masterpiece in myself and look for the masterpiece in others. I intend to speak life with all of my words. What if we all decided to speak life this week? We could create a world where we embrace others struggles and celebrate their beauty. This is a world where everyone would feel safer to be themselves.
I invite you to try it with me because “we can turn a heart with the words we say. Mountains crumble with every syllable. Hope can live or die. So speak life…”