What would it be like if, instead of trying to catch-out proponents in a lie or a misstatement or some kind of stupid deed or misguided thinking, we shined a light on ourselves?
What would it be like if we looked at our own lies and misstatements and stupid deeds and misguided thinking?
What would we see if we tried, even for a minute, to examine ourselves as others see us?
We spend so much time posting and tweeting and sharing bits about how bad the other person is, about how stupid the other side is, about how unbelievable the opposition is. What would happen if we took a look at our own posts and tweets and shares and considered them through the lens of someone whose politics are on the other side of the spectrum? What would we see? What would we learn about ourselves?
Every man, according to an ancient legend, is born into the world with two bags suspended from his neck: all bags in front full of his neighbors’ faults, and a large bag behind filled with his own faults. Hence it is that men are quick to see the faults of others, and yet are often blind to their own failings.
Maybe it’s time to shine a light on ourselves instead of trying to expose everyone else’s flaws.
Throughout this election, those on the left have labeled Trump and his supporters as racists, misogynists, xenophobes, and worse. Those on the right have labeled Clinton and her supporters as liars, cheaters, degenerates, and worse. Labels are so easy. So ugly.
It’s so easy to label someone as something ugly without having to actually stop and think about what drives a person’s speech, action, and thoughts. Labels are so convenient. They quickly and conveniently otherize those we disagree with. So pithy. So catchy. So to the point. Even if they miss the mark.
People who throw stones shouldn’t live in glass houses.
Sadly, the truth is that, in many ways, we all live in glass houses. And yet we have become a nation of stone-throwers.
Few of us like to be labeled, yet few of us refrain from labeling others. Labeling others gives us permission to ignore what motivates them. Instead, when we label others, we assign motivations to them—without asking them what actually motivates them.
But, boy, do we recoil when we ourselves are categorized by a label we don’t like.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Maybe we all need to go back to kindergarten.
Because it sure seems like too many of us have forgotten too many of the basics.
Perhaps this sounds pretty self-righteous or like false altruism. I don’t mean it to. I’m just looking for ways to understand all this hate and anger and frustration. It’s so easy to blame other people. But maybe it’s time we blame ourselves. Donald Trump isn’t forcing grade-school students to chant “build the wall! build the wall!” in school cafeterias. Hillary Clinton isn’t forcing protestors to burn cars and dumpsters. Donald Trump isn’t ordering white supremacists to draw swastikas on churches. Hillary Clinton isn’t telling her followers to smash windows. We are doing that. We are.
Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone.
There’s nothing wrong with protesting. Of course there isn’t. In fact, it’s important to speak out against wrongs. But that doesn’t mean we should do so without considering the other side. It doesn’t necessarily mean that those with whom we disagree are always entirely in the wrong.
If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
Not that silence is the path to reconciliation and understanding. The option here isn’t to say nothing, it is to say something that comes from a place of kindness and compassion.
In a world that seems to be going completely haywire, maybe it’s time we stop with the labels already. Instead of assigning labels to people we don’t even know, maybe we should seek to better understand them. Instead of stereotyping groups and individuals, maybe it would be more helpful if we dispensed with the name-calling and sought to engage with people whose views are different from are own. Instead of trying to simplify everything to the snappiest, snarkiest tweet or post, perhaps it would be more beneficial to respond more thoughtfully and to be more considerate.
Thoughtfulness and consideration? Seems like a great concept. And maybe a little thoughtfulness and consideration would be more constructive than trying to amass the most “likes” by posting the pithiest tweet or the crudest meme. But, first, maybe before we start commenting on other people’s motivations, we should shine the light on ourselves.
If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.
None of us is perfect, especially me. None of us has all the answers, especially me. None of us is guilty of truth-telling, especially me.
But I will try to listen. I will try to open my mind. I will try to refrain from labeling everyone else. I will try. I will.
Will you join me?