The other day a friend shared an image on Facebook – you know, one of those memes that eventually makes its way into everyone’s newsfeed – about a current contentious issue, which, predictably, set off a firestorm of comments among the people on her friends list.
I’ll admit it: I lurked.
Yes, I lurked. And wow, it really wasn’t pretty. The very first person to respond to the original post started off hostile and defensive (and, incidentally, somewhat off-topic), and things rapidly devolved from there, with people representing both “sides” of the hot-button issue raised by the first commenter rapidly chiming in with their own feelings and opinions.
As I observed the flow of posts, I noted that the main players on both sides didn’t actually seem to be listening to what the others had to say, but instead responded to each comment with their own well-rehearsed catchphrases and rhetoric designed to put their opponent in their place.
Witnessing a scenario like the one on my friend’s Facebook page makes me think, ruefully, that if a handful of individuals can’t even have a reasonable exchange of ideas on an internet forum, the thought of ever achieving world peace is laughable at best.
It’s completely fair and understandable that we will all approach issues from different angles, and, based on our varying belief systems and worldview, come to different places at which to stand. And after all, a cookie-cutter world where we all thought the same and acted the same and lived the same would be colourless, dull, and devoid of value.
But I wonder how much of what we have to say about our beliefs, about our feelings on issues, is completely lost because of the method in which we choose to share it.
I wonder what would happen if, when we found ourselves involved in such a discussion, we for just one minute consented to suspend our beliefs, let go of our assumptions about what we think the other person is saying, and really listen with an open heart, a willing mind, a softness of spirit.
I don’t necessarily think that doing so would totally change minds on either side. Nor do I think having a population made up of robots would be at all interesting (see above).
But imagine a world where instead of preconceived notions, namecalling, misperceptions, and hostility, we ended up actually understanding each other just a little better and thereby living in peace. Imagine if instead of judging others, we tried to learn from them. Imagine if instead of fighting, we accepted that sometimes there will be differences, and that’s ok.
Imagine. Do you think you can do it?
(Originally posted in February, 2012.)