Our recent election season has left me feeling like there is no safe place for dialogue. How can we engage in healthy conversation with our friends and family without devolving into yelling and hurt feelings?
In my life there are many, many people I love. I am one amazingly lucky woman because my life is woven together with so many different ideas and viewpoints. I was forged by Republicans and Democrats, women and men. I was connected to the dirt of this earth by people of faith who believe in a God that whispered the stars into existence, by friends who believe that those stars are simply the result of a big bang, and those who hold both sides as truth. In my life, I am blessed to love heterosexuals and homosexuals, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Atheists. I am honored to have learned from Armenians, Caucasians, Asians, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and all the other beautiful colors that make up our world. I am me because of a wide variety of you's.
And I've spent the last few months reflecting on these two ideas: how I live my life matters and all the diversity that breathed life into me. I've been trying to find ways to honor those who have taught me, to honor the God who loves me, and to honor the voice inside of me.
Each week at youth group, I tell the students that I work with that this is a safe space. I encourage them to come to us, just as they are, and that they will have a place here. They belong. They know that there are very few things I won't tolerate. I can handle the occasional food fight or wrestling match, but the number one behavior that is absolutely banned is disrespect. I don't care if they like each other, but I care how they treat each other. But when I read comments on the Internet, I see that it simply does not have the same rules. I think that because we don't have to look each other in the eye, we find it easier to unleash our perfectly crafted arguments and not worry ourselves with how we come across. We forget that there is another human sitting on the other side of a screen.
This behavior goes beyond the ways that we handle ourselves online. Our world has become a brash place. I remember learning in history class that we once lived in a time where our President was protected by journalists who wouldn't photograph full body shots of him so his wheelchair wouldn't influence the nation. Today, our President is barely treated as a human, let alone a man to be respected, and frankly we didn't do much better with the last President either. I used to hear stories about news anchors that were seen as beacons of comfort during times of uncertainty. Today, however, many of our journalists care more about ratings than they do the truth.
We have stopped listening to those that think differently than we do. We have stopped letting ourselves engage in conversation and instead have turned our attention to winning. Here's what I know to be true: how I live my life matters. The ways that I reflect Christ to those around me matters. How I love and listen and speak matters. I think the way that we engage one other in healthy dialogue is by listening more than we talk. It’s through remembering that the person we are speaking with deserves to be treated with dignity. I think when we honor Christ’s image in each other–even with those who don’t share our perspective–we will find ourselves having real conversation.