I don’t write about politics. I choose not to use the privilege of this space to talk about what divides us. Instead, I try to focus on what unites us. Newspapers are full of needed political commentary, but that’s not me. The goal of this column is to take us all off the political grid and give us a needed moment of pause. I hope and pray that I find 700 weekly words that convey common ground and help create a bond between neighbors.
More than a year has passed since the historic elections of 2016. In my lifetime, I have never experienced such extreme vitriol from both sides. We have all witnessed an alarming separation of friends and family, almost entirely based upon political views. I thought by this point, much of the frustration and anger would have dissipated but sadly, it has not. The extremes on both sides keep tugging away at the majority near the middle, causing a painful tension that pulls us apart.
I continue to be struck by a sermon I heard several months ago. It was delivered by Pastor Tara Beth Leach of Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena, California. By way of disclosure, I’ll share that I am the very proud father of this pastor. Last week, while visiting her church, I heard her close with the same words from that sermon in the form of four simple statements that I feel compelled to share. Regardless of your faith, or lack of, I believe she shared four simple truths that, when contemplated and internalized, can calm a stressed nation and world.
I need you …
I need you to walk beside me, encourage me and hold me accountable. I need you to love me even when you disagree and respect me regardless of my views. I need you to understand that even though I may think and feel differently, I do think and feel. I need you to accept me for who I am but to also help me become who I am meant to be, the best version of me.
You need me …
You need me to walk beside you and be your friend. To love you regardless of what or how you think, and understand that just because I may disagree, it does not make you wrong. You need me to understand that even though we may see life through different colored eyes and from a different vantage point, we can still learn from and love one another.
We need you …
As a community, we need you to positively contribute to enhance the greater collective. We need to understand that you are unique and often bring a different point of view to the group. We need to not be threatened by our differences, but to embrace what makes us different and be better for it. We need you to not make judgments about us based upon skin color or religious beliefs, but to learn from us and accept us for who we are.
You need us …
To paraphrase John Donne, “No man or woman is an island, entire of itself. We are all a piece of the continent and part of the main.” Human beings are herd animals. We learn, grow and thrive as part of the collective. This doesn’t mean your individualism and personal talents are not important, but quite the opposite. It means you, the unique and talented individual that you are, is needed to support and help move the herd forward. It is our shared differences that make us stronger as a group.
Much like a symphony orchestra, full of instruments that look different, sound different and perform different roles, when cooperating and working together the most beautiful music is made. The violin needs the trumpet, the trumpet needs the timpani. The entire orchestra needs the oboe and the French horn needs the entire orchestra. When cooperating differences work together in harmony, beautiful music is made.
Four simple statements …
… when internalized and accepted can change our heart. I need you. You need me. We need you. You need us.
I wonder how our world would change if we forgave each other for not voting the way you believe we should and we accepted and loved each other, even when we think and feel differently? What if we approached social media as a connection to love our friends and learn from each other, rather than weaponizing Facebook as a device to launch our political WMD’s at those who disagree? What if we didn’t excuse our bad behavior by pointing to actors and political figures and their bad behavior? What if we spoke encouraging and understanding words to each other and set examples of kindness and civility for others to follow?
What would happen if we love each other as we love ourselves?