My friend Steve sent me an article the other day that I couldn’t get out of my mind or my heart. It didn't make me just pause and think for a moment. It made me do a full stop in my tracks.
The piece I'm talking about came out in early September, but it still resonates a month later. (You can read it here). One of the lines that really struck me was this: “We're going to need more good people becoming louder about what is and isn’t within the bounds of civilized society. We are going to have to name what is unacceptable and demand decency and safety for all of us.”
I couldn’t agree more. Dignity, decency, and safety have got to be the mission of each and every one of us, and we have to get louder about proclaiming that to be the case. There is no doubt in my mind that everywhere we look, we are up against rage, hate, division, and fear. We are up against our fellow citizens behaving in a way that I never thought was possible in the public arena. We are up against public officials who lie, demean, and are trying to ruin the very fabric of our democracy.
It’s scary and shocking, and unless we open our collective eyes to the reality of what is going on around us in plain sight, it will be too late to reclaim the decency and dignity that was once the hallmark of our country—and of most Americans.
The big question and the big opportunity in front of each of us is this: What are we going to do to help to bridge the divide that is destroying the fabric of our society? I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve written about it. I talk to people every day about what we can do. And while I don't have the answer, I do believe that we are the answer. We are the lighthouses. We are the ones who must model a different way forward.
We can vote for candidates whose values are in the best interest of everyone, those who believe in fighting for issues that affect the common good, like climate change and voting rights for all. We can support leaders who value the caregivers toiling on the frontlines of humanity, who believe in funding science, and who don't abuse the press or question the fairness of our elections. We can support leaders who behave like adults and talk like someone we would want to be friends with and who our kids could admire and respect. We can vote for leaders who tell their truths—like the congresswomen who bravely shared their abortion stories before a House oversight committee on reproductive rights on Thursday—so that laws can be more humane and actually serve the reality of people’s lives.
One thing I’ve learned in my personal life is that asking people to change doesn’t work. Neither does shaming them, arguing with them, or pointing out the ways they are wrong. Instead of shaming those who disagree with us, perhaps we listen. Perhaps we seek to understand. Perhaps we don’t roll our eyes. Perhaps we try to love those who are destroying the fabric of our great country. Perhaps we get brave and tell our stories in order to connect with those who might share similar life experiences that we don’t even know about.
I've seen more examples of love changing a person than shame. When someone who sees themselves as a light takes the time to listen to someone they don’t like, then that person who is raging often feels heard and doesn't meet the other with a fight. When I've dropped the fight in my own life, the people around me have shifted too.
Look, we can call out the Karens of our world, or we can call them in. We can rail against the opposite party, or we can give them kudos when they step up and put their country first. There are people from all political parties who I know read The Sunday Paper from top to bottom. We who believe in dignity, decency, kindness, equality, and love have to get louder, braver, and bolder. We have got to come out of the shadows and start using our voices in every forum possible to highlight the need for those values in our public arena.
The bottom line is that we would never accept in our homes what we currently accept in our social media feeds or public forums or from certain public officials. We can do better. We must do better. We can’t step back and simply allow those who are raging, screaming, lying, and undermining to own the main stage.
Saturday, I went to the Women’s March in LA and was honored to speak about what’s at stake. I have been to other women’s marches, but this time it felt different. Women are up against so much these days. That's not only true for the women of Texas, but for women all over this country who are working as caregivers and trying to balance careers and families in an environment where they don’t get the support they need to thrive. Even though I have four brothers, I'm still surprised, yet also inspired, to see so many good men stepping up to march alongside those who haven’t had an equitable playing field. There is hope. I can feel it.
So do not despair. Instead, remember this truth: Each of us is a light. Each of us has tremendous power to highlight the good and to be an example of the good. Each of us can talk openly about the values we uphold and be examples of how to model successful conflict resolution. (Marshall Rosenberg’s famous book on conflict resolution is an incredible read.)
This week, Olympian Simone Biles did a beautiful interview where she said she had to walk away in order to reclaim her life. I get that. I did it myself. But at this moment in time, I believe that each of us has the power to reclaim something equally important to our own lives, and that is the life of our country. And we can only do that by walking into the arena and by seeing ourselves as agents of change and lights of love. Anything else will cause us to lose what we love.
The time is now. Let’s not be too late.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, Please help me be an agent of change. Please help me be a light of love. Whenever I'm tempted to be frustrated by the other, remind me that love—not shame—is the key to bringing us closer. Amen.
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