Monday, June 13, 2016

Start listening

When horrific, tragic events like the shooting in Orlando occur, I'm always hesitant to post, here or anywhere else. I understand why people do. Many want to express their sorrow or anger, or just their support for the affected community. Some feel the effects personally. Some want to help in any way they can, no matter how small.

The problem I have seen, and the reason I avoid posting, is the comments that follow. The bickering over gun control or religious freedom or whether or not our President is a mole (Seriously!?) or whether or not people in the LGBT community are sinners or whether or not God was at work... It goes on and on and on. The arguments feed the hate and the anger, until both have a life of their own. Instead of using the tragedy as a way to come together, we allow it to tear us apart.

People who share opinions are instantly labeled: Conservative or liberal, republican or democrat, LGBT-friendly, religious, Christian, Muslim, pro-gun, anti-gun. Labels lead to assumptions; we automatically assume that because we know a person's political affiliation or religious practice, we must also know where he stands on gun-control or LGBT rights.

Assumptions are natural, and labels are easy. I'm as guilty as anyone. I read comments and I automatically assume I know where someone stands on any issue. I have leapt to the conclusion that disagreement is personal, and means we can not be friends.

But I have learned that why a person feels the way he does is just as important as what he feels - and how he chooses to express or act upon those feelings is more important than either.

I have also learned that although people may disagree on a defined political or social issue, that very well may agree that a problem exists - and they may even be able to find common ground on a solution.

My boyfriend and I disagree on a lot of political and social issues. It would be easy for us to label each other as insensitive or foolish or unyielding or hurtful. Instead, we take the time to share and listen. We talk about the issues - not about each other. We don't point fingers - we wonder out loud about what is happening and what should happen, and then share with each other why that may or may not work for everyone.

I have learned more about compassion and love and freedom and understanding and support from this one person than I have from all of the posts and articles I've read combined. He's wise and kind - and that's coming from someone who often disagrees with his point of view. I may not agree with him, but I absolutely respect him.

If I have learned one thing from spending time with someone who disagrees with me on so much, it is this: Nothing will ever change until we are all willing to stop fighting and start listening.