I carry a heavy burden on my heart for the way our world is so fractured and divided these days. I have lived a lot of years, and I do not remember it being like this before – a very clear and determined “us versus them” – with anger, hatred, meanness, and unwillingness to listen to each other prevalent in every sector of our society.
While some segments of our population struggle for equity or validation, others defend their positions or past privilege without any heart willingness to consider a contrasting point of view with an open mind or compassion. We take sides, brother against brother, and spew ugly contempt on anyone who presents a differing story or opinion.
Every work style preference or personality assessment I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken a lot – has shown me the obvious truth everyone else is not the same as me. Even the most simplistic assessments usually categorize people into at least four different types. This tells me that at least 75% of the world may experience any number of life issues from a perspective or preference that greatly differs from mine. Those assessments also tell me that it is important to know myself AND respect others. They remind me that I desperately need other people – who are not like me – to fill my gaps.
What has happened to our respect for others?
What has happened to appreciating differences?
What has happened to human kindness?
Brené Brown addresses the “sorting” that we often do and experience today in her excellent book, “Braving the Wilderness“. She claims that although we desperately desire belonging, we will not find it by picking sides and lobbing grenades of division and defensiveness at each other. As a social work PhD, she is greatly concerned, as I am, by the current status of our world. Thankfully, she does not dwell only in the negative reality, but she also offers some positive alternatives:
“People are hard to hate close up. Lean in.”
Brené explains that as a social species, our greatest strength is not found in “rugged individualism” but rather in our ability to communicate, care, and work together. Connection matters – and it is in getting to know people up close that dispels the generalizations, false stereotypes, suspicions, and fears that drive us apart.
Getting to know each other up close requires honest curiosity about people who are different from me, the courage to step out of my comfort zone, and a willingness to enter into tough conversations. Not always easy to do, but the benefits gained from collective social connections make it worth the effort.
This post only scratches the surface of this topic – Brené presents a deeper perspective in her book. I highly recommend it.
For now, I chose a few action points:
- Admit when I am no expert on a topic and ask good questions to learn more
- Intentionally initiate to get to know people who are different from me
- Actively listen to understand – especially deeper heart issues
- Speak up about those beliefs I hold strongly
- Invite others to tell me if they experience me “sorting” people
How have you experienced “sorting” or the “us versus them” mentality?
How have you attempted to come together with others – especially those who are different from you?