I have an older sister, she’s great and we are really good friends, but it wasn’t always that way. We’re less than a year apart, so growing up we fought A LOT, and we weren’t above physical altercations.
One time, when we were both teenagers, we were driving to our dad’s house on a cold, winter day. The sun was fighting behind the clouds and I really wanted some pop music to cheer me up. My sister was in the passenger seat, and had a headache. She wanted the music turned off so she could rest a bit so she could feel better by the time we got there. I wanted it on, because as everyone knows, driver gets to choose the music. It was my right.
So I thought I was justified by compromising to turning the volume to low. The music wasn’t loud by any means, and I argued that I was being kind by keeping it on a low level. While I was explaining to her how justified I was, she just turned it off. I retaliated by turning it back on louder. Then, she turned it off. I turned it on with a little more vigor, and she turned it off aggressively. Eventually, we were yelling at each other about how the other was being incredibly selfish and then she slapped me! Yes, my sister slapped the driver and because I was driving I couldn’t hit her back (God knows I would have.) We drove the rest of the way in silence, fuming at one another, a family divided.
She couldn’t believe that I was being so selfish and not letting her sleep, even though she had a headache. I thought I had the right to the music because I was the driver and I always let her play her music. Plus, I was being super compromising (in my eyes) by playing it softly for her. Neither of us sought to understand one another, and it resulted in violence.
Why am I telling you this? Why do you care about a fight that my sister and I had as teenagers? Well, because I think it’s happening on a much larger scale in our nation today.
As you are all aware, Donald Trump, has recently been elected to become president of the United States and it hasn’t been going over smoothly—to say the least.
People are mourning, and in light of full discretion, I was one of them (I don’t think this is news to anyone.) I was hurt that we had elected a man who (at a minimum) had made many racist comments, and who had bragged about grabbing women’s p**** without their permission. As a woman whose and groped on multiple occasions in the US, that hit me personally. When we elected a man who conducted himself in such a way to the highest place possible in our nation, it felt like we were condoning that kind of behavior. It felt like we were saying racism, sexism, and homophobia were ok and it hurt.
I have many kind and smart friends who voted for Donald Trump, looking past his behavior to his policies. I saw the post below more times than I can count, and I think that is why many evangelicals voted for him. This article REALLY helped me understand where those who voted for Trump were coming from. (Bill Johnson from Bethel wrote it, so I feel it’s worth your time.)
I, however, could not move past his behavior. Neither could some of my friends. My friend Joy, an African-American woman who happens to be a Christian worship leader wrote this post (it’s definitely worth your time) and I resonated with it deeply and wrote this Facebook status, garnering a bit of judgement from my friends who had voted for him.
It seems dismissive to say that is God is control, because the truth is that people elected him. He allows us to make our own choices, and yes, elect our own leaders. What if I had said, “Well, God is in control” as I turned up the volume and ignored my sister’s pain? You can bet that wouldn’t have gone over well.
Meanwhile, across America people went to the streets in protest of their new president. Some protests turned from peaceful to violent, like this one in Portland. People began burning flags, destroying cars and buildings, and it divided the Nation even further.
In a response to this destructive behavior, people began posting articles like this one:
Racism seemed to be on the rise, with swastikas graffitied around schools, and the KKK on the march. Shaun King began keeping track of the attacks on his Twitter, reporting students yelling “build the wall” in school cafeterias, and Latinx students coming to school in tears fearing their parents deportation. When more of these attacks occurred, protests became increasingly intense and Republicans became increasingly annoyed and fed up with the protests.
I, in no way, condone violent protests. I think it is childish, selfish, behavior, but I do understand where they are coming from. It reminds me of that car ride I had with my sister all those years ago. I refused to listen to her pain, dismissing her as a “whiny baby”, so she felt that the only way I would hear is if she knocked some sense into me.
Do you see what I am trying to get at?
Our nation is becoming violently divided because we are refusing to listen to each other.
We must first learn to listen, understand, and sympathize before we act.
If people are saying that Trump’s presidency scares them, it’s because half the nation voted for a man who spoke against them. He was hateful towards them in comments, and by electing him, it felt like you were saying that behavior is acceptable.
If people are saying that violent protests are childish, it’s because they are. Even though people are scared, this is not the way to get the point across. When the majority of them voted for Trump, they didn’t think Trump’s behavior was okay, but they far preferred his policy to Clinton’s, so they overlooked his behavior.
I understand and sympathize with both sides.
Family, do you really want to see this nation united? Then stop dismissing one another’s pain. Try to understand it, try to put yourself in the other’s shoes.
I’ve come up with three easy steps that I plan to implement with all who I disagree with.
- Listen– Stop talking long enough to let the other speak, and when they speak, give my undivided attention.
- Seek to understand– Ask clarifying questions and try to understand where they are coming from.
- Acknowledge and apologize (if necessary)– Acknowledge their pain and understand where they are coming from. If necessary apologize for my actions.
- Explain– Explain where I am coming in a calm and kind way.
- Compromise– This is where we get to come together and find a solution that works for both of us.
A lot of us get this, and are doing something about it. Recently, Maple Grove Senior High School had racist remarks scrawled across bathroom stalls, so they did something about it.
They lined up to welcome everyone to the school today. The principal, Bart Becker, ended his daily announcement with “I love you all.”
“Don’t talk about it, be about it,” Becker said. “Be about love. Be about respect. Be about empathy, kindness, inclusiveness, gratitude, patience, selflessness, humility, compassion, resolve and strength.”
So the kids were about all of those things, providing some graffiti of their own…
… and they left messages to each other.
If High School students at Maple Grove can put aside their differences to understand one another, then so can we.
Divided we fall. United we stand.