Line in the Sand
My friend Steven posted this wonderful article about the power of words which encapsulated something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Words have the power to draw us together and the power to drive us apart.
I watch as friends express their frustration with politics and society. I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in, but sometimes I get concerned that the words they use to describe people who don’t share their beliefs are widening the chasm in our culture. Using bullying tactics won’t help the cause of either side in the long term.
If there is an imaginary line in the sand between what I believe (my side) and what I don’t (your side), me standing over the line, pointing my finger and calling you names isn’t going to have the effect I really want.
Instead I need to take a step back, show you that there is a safe space on this side of the line where you are welcome. You can gingerly put one foot over the line and see what it feels like to believe what I believe and decide if it’s for you.
Or better still… I can step over the line to your side for a moment. To really explore what that feels like. Attempt to understand how and why someone would stand where you are, what it means to believe what you believe and consider the reasons you might prefer (or feel like it’s safer) to stay here.
Then (and only then) I can suggest why in my opinion you’d benefit from being on the other side. I can offer you my hand so we can step across the line together, I can stand with you as you get used to what that feels like. And if you decide this isn’t right for you, I’ll walk you back to the line and say thank you and that I respect your decision as you step back across.
We can invite other people to believe what we believe, but we can’t insist.
We can’t change another person’s mind, but we can introduce them to a different way of thinking that they may decide to explore.
When we seek justice, equality and acceptance we need to expand our circle so that it includes everyone, not push some people out so that others can be let in.
Postscript: While I believe this stands true for how we ought to treat one another, when it comes to social change I don’t always think encouraging people to change their minds one by one is the most efficient way forward.
Social change is incremental, and doesn’t always move in a way that makes life better without some encouragement. There are times when we need leaders to point the way forward.
I believe that government should provide a system that allows basic health care for everyone. I believe that mandated superannuation contributions is a way of looking after our future. I believe that countries that make organ donation an opt out option rather than opt in are immediately making a massive positive impact in the lives of thousands of people each year.
I believe that the Australian Government is capable of deciding that everyone is entitled to equal rights to marry and have their relationships recognised legally – and I think they should do so immediately.
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