Ripples #1198: Overarching Understanding


It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.
-Doe Zantamata, shared by Lisa in Frederick, MD


In these challenging moments of dissonance, we need to stay curious and resist choosing comfort over courage. It’s brave to invite new information to the table, to sit with it and hear it out. It’s also rare these days.
-Brené Brown, shared by Angie in Eau Claire, WI


I love that these Ripples emails have become a place where almost 30,000 adventurous spirits from a diverse array of backgrounds and perspectives can meet up and ponder together, if only for a minute every Monday. And I remain excited about the possibilities that exist in recognizing and developing our commonalities, in part so that we can appreciate and learn from our differences.

It turns out that navigating these waters can be complicated even on the easy days, and nearly impossible during the tougher times. And I’m pretty sure that we’re all in agreement: we’re living in tough times.

I don’t wish to use this particular space to discuss hot button issues, nor do I want to pretend that I’m neutral or ambivalent about some topics I care passionately about. I do want to help us all remember that we aren’t always at our best when we’re rashly reacting from our fears and frustrations instead of passionately responding from reflection and reason.

For example, it can be tempting to react with “you’re either with me or against me” types of messages that can oversimplify the complexities involved in many of the tough issues we’ve been struggling with. Psychologists consider all or nothing thinking a form of cognitive distortion while philosophers recognize it as a false dilemma. I view them as understandable yet ultimately unhelpful in navigating a complex world.

Polarizing issues also tend to elicit dehumanizing language in our outbursts, allowing us to view our foes as somehow less than human. This is an often unconscious pattern that makes us easier to hate people and even to harm them. When you succumb to name calling, referring to people as animals or objects, you are stepping down a dangerous and degrading path, one that damages (and could even destroy) our humanity.

I am fully conscious that we are clashing over really big issues, and that people’s lives and wellbeing are at stake. I’m also fully awake to the fact that people I love and respect are looking at some of these issues very differently and in some case reaching different conclusions. Our path forward requires solutions we haven’t yet found along with an amalgam of passion, patience, and persistence that we haven’t yet assembled. And friends: if we can’t find them together, I’m pretty sure we won’t find them at all.

What can you do this week to nurture an overarching understanding, one that allows us remember our togetherness even as we grapple with our separateness and otherness?


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