This past Saturday, I made a big goof. Feeling a bit pressed for time and wanting to cover a lot of ground, I commented on four different news stories that I had read recently. (This idea of being pressed for time isn’t new — I caught my mistake Sunday, but I’m just now able to make the time to write out this post!) I basically blasted the people involved for not thinking and for not following more productive paths. I didn’t make any suggestions about how those involved could have made better choices or about how underlying problems could be solved. I just blasted away — guilty of the same behavior of which I was accusing others!
So, having recognized my error, I would like to extend the post by making positive suggestions for solutions.
Here’s my second attempt:
I will respect everyone’s right to hold their own opinions. The biggest problem I have here is that one group attempted to force their opinion upon others. That’s where they crossed the line.
- Change through force isn’t change, it’s coercion. It either leads to abuse of others, or it leads to incidents like the one in this article, where violence erupts.
- The best we can offer others is respectful, thoughtful dialogue. We need to do our own thinking, and we need to allow others that same privilege.
- Surprisingly (to many people), the most good comes when we try to understand the perspectives of others and seek to find common ground.
I actually kind of hinted at the solution to this sort of situation: looking at all of the evidence. This is a case where one person “cherry picked” a quote and used it out of context — probably of the conversation and definitely out of the track record of years of public service.
Research exists that suggests that human brains will only collect evidence that supports our pre-conceived notions unless we actively work against it. Two of the best cures is to adopt a wait-and-see attitude and to investigate further.
Again, I actually used about 1/2 a sentence to offer a solution. Again, I support the efforts of “We, the People” to cure problems. Protests don’t directly create change. Rolling up our sleeves and getting directly involved in creating a solution does.
I agree that there are times when we need to speak up. But, as I wrote earlier in this post, speaking up needs to be done respectfully, thoughtfully, and with good, solid evidence to back it up.
At this point, I’ve already written what I think would be the best course of action: listening to opposing opinions respectfully, even if they don’t fit with current popular ideas or even our own worldview. Listen to understand the true concerns of the other person. Listen to see where we have common ground. Listen to see if there is already a solution that the other person doesn’t already know about.
We need to stop fearing and being offended by people who think differently from ourselves. Looking at things from all sides is how we begin to see life in its true light.