“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill
Back in 2012, I gave a commencement speech called “The Power of the Pause” in which I spoke about the value of pausing before one reacts, comments or speaks out. At the time, I thought things were bad and that we could all really use the reminder. Well, back then doesn’t have anything on today.
Today, it feels as though people react, comment and post within seconds of seeing a story or a tweet or a video. We feel pressure to respond immediately and fret that if we don’t post or add our voice to the fray immediately, then people will rail at us for staying silent or being complicit in the problem.
All I’ve got to say is, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
Can we not pause, for just a moment, anymore? Can we not pause long enough to learn the whole story before forming an opinion and commenting publicly? Can we not take time to really reflect on what we think or how we feel about a story, and only then decide if it’s necessary for us to jump into the fray?
If you ask me, it’s unnecessary for all of us to jump in and comment on everything that is happening in our politics and culture today. To be fair, there is a lot to be upset about and to speak up about. But there is also a lot of room for us to pause, learn and listen before we cast judgments or make declarative statements.
These days, we’re too quick to disparage, vilify, or attack the messenger. More often than not, we don’t even stop to think about what we don’t know or what details might be missing.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we really seem to have lost the “art of conversation” and the ability to listen, to hear out the other, and to refrain from bringing our pre-existing judgments into every situation. This is part of the reason why I wanted to create my podcast “Meaningful Conversations” — so that I had the opportunity to have longer, deeper conversations with people from all walks of life. I hope to use the podcast as a vehicle to better understanding a number of different topics, opinions and voices. In doing so, I hope it inspires you to do the same.
After all, if we don’t put an end to this madness and seek another way, then we will never find our way and get closer to one another.
I believe in my soul that the vast majority of us are yearning to find our way forward. We are yearning to unite our country. I believe that we can’t be proud of who we are or where we are today. Think about it: we wouldn’t tolerate the screaming we do online in our own homes. Yet, in our virtual homes, we let that stuff in by the minute.
This year, I promised myself to engage in more thoughtful and meaningful conversations with all kinds of people, including those who have different opinions than my own. I think it’s the only way I can truly learn, grow, evolve and get clear about what I think and how I want to use my voice.
The truth is, we don’t have to use our voices to respond to every single story or every single issue in our society. Let’s remember that how we use our voices has a huge impact — on others and on our own inner well-being.
So this morning ask yourself these questions: Are you using your voice to give hope, to inspire and to move humanity forward? Or are you using it to disparage, threaten and shame?
Perhaps the best way to answer is to pause and take a breath. Maybe take two or three.
I don’t think that any of us want to live in a country where someone receives death threats for speaking up. None of us want to live in a country where journalists are maliciously attacked simply because they are doing their job and interviewing two sides of the same story. It’s not a journalist’s job to take sides. It’s their job to ask questions, to listen and to present the story in an objective way.
That’s also our job as individuals. Before we pounce, let’s pause. Let’s listen. Let’s learn. Let’s figure out a way to use our words to educate and enlighten one another.
Pause, breathe, reflect and use your words in the way that you would like words to be used with you.
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