Are you happy with the divisiveness in our world? I’m not! I am frustrated and angry that our society is so divided, and in many places it appears there is no desire to come together. I think this is partly because our news media and politicians are focusing on things that divide us, not the things that unite us. It appears to me that this divisiveness has spilled over into our day-to-day interactions.
John Maxwell and Rob Hoskins open their outstanding book, Change Your World, with a quote from Augustine of Hippo:
Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are,
and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.
Anger I have. Courage to see that they do not remain as they are? Courage to do what? I don’t pretend I have the answer to instantaneously turn things around. The news media and politicians will continue to focus on things that divide us no matter what I do. I think the answer lies with smaller actions, but consistently applied. Applied in smaller groups like my Rotary Club or the road association I am in for a mountain community. I am going to focus on changing MY world, not THE world.
The road association was an interesting example. Leading up to our annual meeting the emails between members became increasingly rancorous. Admittedly, it was an extremely stressful 18 months or so leading up to this annual meeting. On top of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the largest fire in Colorado history had threatened the community and the wettest Spring in recent memory took a toll on the road. Patience wore thin. Most of our communications were via email, which seemed to increase our isolation and lent a veneer of impersonality to the situation. We kicked off the meeting by discussion some of the points that follow, and several members commented afterward it led to a shift in attitude, and the meeting was much more pleasant than any of us expected.
First, we all have a choice. Do you choose to focus on things that divide us, or do you focus on things that unite us? What unites us? What do we agree on? We should be able to agree on the purpose – the purpose of my Rotary Club (eliminate polio, make my community better) or the road association (affordable access). We can have reasonable discussions on differences about HOW to achieve that purpose when we focus on the shared purpose.
We can also agree on values. Let’s just start with one value – integrity. Can we all agree we should tell each other the truth? Can we also agree that a half truth is a whole lie?
Next, we should assume our neighbors have good intentions. Most people are good people, and until they prove differently we should assume they have good intentions – they want to achieve the shared purpose and are going to tell us the whole truth. This assumption has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you enter an interaction with the assumption the other party has good intentions, your communication – your body language and voice – communicate this even if the words are neutral. On the other hand, if you assume the other party has nefarious intention your communication will communicate that, too.
Will any of this change THE world? Absolutely not. The media will still try and divide us. Politicians will still do whatever accumulates the most power to them. Will it change MY world? I believe it will. At least, it will change the way I look at my corner of the world. If you are also angry about the way things are, and you want to change your world, visit ChangeYourWorld.com and learn more about how to apply your courage so things do not remain as they are.