There are no short cuts to healing the divisions we see in this world. We have a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives. The illusion is that we must somehow convince others of our viewpoint. If we could only convince others that we are right then all would be well. This goal is unattainable. A more attainable goal would be to accept others as they are and to release the need to fix or change them. Do this and your influence with others will increase.
A line from A Course In Miracles states: “I could choose peace instead of this.” When I find myself frustrated with someone else’s view of the world I remember this line. I need not convince anyone of anything. Who I am is much more convincing than what I say.
It is easy to see the inconsistencies in many of the prevailing viewpoints of today. Many evangelistic Christians are horrified at abortion but think capital punishment and preemptive attacks on other countries are acceptable. Other “spiritual” people are horrified at the destruction of war but think abortion is acceptable. Both see themselves as valuing life and offering a spiritual perspective. Both see themselves as right. We attack each other’s inconsistencies yet fail to acknowledge our own.
Inconsistency doesn’t make a viewpoint invalid. Nearly all of us are inconsistent and selectively indignant about what we see as unacceptable. Rather than defending and rationalizing our inconsistencies we could be examining them. The examination needs to come from a place of nonjudgment. As I question my own views on abortion or on war, I need not feel guilty for my point of view. If I participated in war or abortion, I need not feel guilt about it. My participation gives me an up close opportunity to learn and grow.
Let’s say that I come to realize that I value life too much to support either of these activities. Having come to this conclusion, is it now my job to convince everyone else? Is it my role to to make sure everyone else feels the way I do? Should I try to make people guilty for what they do? Should I quote scripture and go on a campaign against war and abortion? My thought on this is a definite “No!”
I realize that people reading this might be thinking: “War and abortion–there is no comparison here.” Some would see abortion as absolutely horrible but war is a reality of life. Others will see war as absolutely horrible but abortion is a woman’s choice. If you are thinking one way of the other, I invite you to explore the space in between the polarities. I invite you to rise up above the polarities and see the big picture. I invite you to ask someone who feels differently from you to explain why they feel the way they do, and that you would listen with the goal of completely and compassionately understanding that person.
Does this mean we should not express our opinions? We are free to express our opinions. The deeper questions are: “What is the goal when we express an opinion? How am I seeing this other person when I express my viewpoint? Is it my intention to create healing or is it to dominate the situation with my viewpoint?”
Beneath all of our viewpoints and perspectives is something much deeper and profound. There is something much more important than what I believe. People may be impacted by my opinion, but they are more deeply impacted by who I am and how I see them. Do I think I am smarter, more moral, and more spiritual? Do I see this person as stupid, evil, or misled? If so, than I am disconnecting myself from this person. I cannot influence and I cannot heal from a place of disconnection.
We may be arguing about war or abortion, but the more serious issue is the rift between us. It is the disconnection we create by convincing ourselves that because we differ on an issue, that we are separate. In my mind I may divide the world into the red states and the blue states, the right wing and the left wing, the new agers and the fundamentalists, or the people who get it and the people who don’t get it. What have I accomplished? In dividing up my world am I a healing presence to myself and others?
Life is a process. We are all in process, learning as best we can. I am connected to you because we both have emerged from the same source. We are both learning to express and find joy, each in our own way. I offer you respect and love, but it may not always be gentle. I may call you on your inconsistencies, your judgments, or your behavior because that is what is in the highest interests for all concerned. At the same time, I am willing to be called for my own inconsistencies. I want you to expose my inconsistencies so that I can heal them.
Clubbing people over the head with your opinion, no matter how holy you think it is, usually drives them away. Taking the time to understand another, and to see them as human, draws them closer to you. By honoring your connection you increase the possibilty that another may agree with you. You also increase the possibility that you may find agreement in some of what they say. More importantly, you heal the illusory divide that has been created by your differences. This builds trust and respect, and opens the door to future dialogue.
If you truly are for peace and for life then offer the gifts of peace and life to everyone. Allow yourself to exude life, to radiate peace, and to express deep respect for everyone. In every interaction, your sense of connection allows you to teach and to be taught. In offering peace and well-being to everyone you will cross the great divide into a new and more joyful world.