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Civility Starts from Within

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

Perhaps it's ironic, or maybe appropriate would be a better word, that I am writing this post on the day that Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Feelings no doubt ran the gamut from happiness and exuberance, to sadness and despair and probably every emotion in between.

And remember the tables were completely flipped four years ago when it was the Republican party that was excited, and the Democrats who were despondent.

Such is life in politics, which has never been a game for the faint of heart. But there was a time when it was at least slightly more civil than it's been in recent years. Is this due to the ideological divide, which is wider between left and right than it was, say forty years ago? The never-ending 24-hour news cycle in which it's a little too easy to post a nasty comment about an opposing view? Misinformation from the media? Something else?

If Americans are sincere about beginning a healing process, I believe civility starts from within. Democrats can blame Republicans, and Republicans can blame Democrats, but all this leads to is a never-ending cycle of hate regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. We can blame government all we want, and they're certainly NOT blameless!

But it's also necessary to look in the mirror and see where we, as individuals, have failed. If we look to Washington to wave some magic wand and make all the vitriol go away, without recognizing that we, too have contributed to all the hate and anger, we're kidding ourselves. It's time for a more "grassroots" approach in which each of us remembers that we are, first and foremost, Americans in spite of our differences.

And how do you do that? Acknowledging a person's right to their opinion is a start. Radical acceptance goes a long way. Radical acceptance means you stop fighting reality, you stop blowing your top because reality is not the way YOU want it – and you let go of bitterness.

It’s imperative to point out that radical acceptance does NOT mean approving of the reality (what has happened). We all have to accept drastic changes in our lives: loss of a loved one, a job, divorce, and yes, an election that didn't turn out the way we wanted.

This was an eye-opening lesson for me when I learned about this concept late last year. I always thought "accepting" something meant "approving" of it - but this is not the case! We can accept someone's alternate point of view without agreeing with it. BIG DIFFERENCE!

I suggest checking out the differences between left and right post on this blog to read and consider these very differences. I know it helped me.

Having a literal "world view" is but one differing mindset. Some people I know have traveled a lot more and thus have a much greater world view. As a result, they look at the office of POTUS in that vain. With that in mind, it's no surprise that such a person probably had a low opinion of the president who just left office.

On the other hand, others come from blue collar backgrounds and have not traveled extensively. In their "world", jobs and economy are of first and foremost importance.

International relations and the like are fine and well, but America and American interests will usually win out for these folks. If you're fortunate enough that you have never suffered through a job loss or other rough economic patch, it might be hard to relate why these matters are so important to some.

Those are but two examples, and they are simply put, but they illustrate how different we tend to think. If you are of the latter persuasion, there is a good chance you voted "red" in the last election. If the former, (world view), probably "blue." Not positively, but likely.

Regardless, the point is we all need someone to LISTEN to what we have to say. And really LISTEN. We need to be heard, validated, and NOT feel judged for our views. We all must get better at recognizing that one does not have to be right and the other person wrong, we can simply be DIFFERENT since we are looking at the world through a different lens. This can also mark the beginning of compromise - something all too rare today.

I once had an editor who taught me this lesson quite well. As a newspaper reporter, I was used to someone phoning on the day the paper came out to complain about something I had written. And it's human nature to want to lash out at the upset reader! Boy, I wanted to yell back! What I learned was, if I bit my tongue, and simply LISTENED to why this person was angry, nine times out of ten, the person cooled off!! They just wanted someone to understand why they were mad!

A similar approach marks the beginning of civility in political discussions and other discourse. It starts with listening, and then to extending an olive branch, but it's one that MUST cross both sides of the aisle. Left must consider Right, and Right must listen to Left. It works both ways, or it doesn't work at all.

As prideful, often arrogant human beings, this is not easy! We LIKE being right, and telling others that we are! Few of us get excited at the prospect of looking at a mirror to think about our own failings - where we've fallen short in not even CONSIDERING someone's else point of view.

We do not have to "agree" but neither are we to judge. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).

We're all very good at seeing that speck - it's high time we get better at noticing that log.

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