I have been feeling burdened lately with so much negativity and divisiveness in the news and in discourse that it’s ironic — I am now going to complain. I will propose a solution, however, which somehow makes it all feel justified.
Russ Harris, MD reminds us that our brains are wired to look for problems so that we can prepare for and solve them to survive. So, on some level, it should be no surprise that the headlines are filled with negativity. At the same time, I feel like it is the negativity that is selling and building upon itself just to stir the pot. While it may be energizing for people who feel they have a cause to fight for, I am finding little room for people who choose to be moderate. There seems to be an “us vs. them” attitude, and you MUST pick a side. I think it is bullsh*t. We are quickly becoming a society that is allowing fear to rule our lives, decisions, and interactions.
I recently read an article on the importance of humility in relationships. It has gotten me thinking — a lot. I feel like humility is what is missing more than ever today. Humility is the exact opposite of asshole. Humility is having a “modest view of one’s own importance.” (Oxford Dictionary) In other words, humility is understanding and accepting that you are imperfect, and therefore, your perspectives may be imprecise. We may see things differently because we have different life experiences, but that doesn’t make one view superior to another — despite how we may feel. (I acknowledge that there are issues of absolute right and wrong. What I am saying, though, is that arrogance and judgment can cause us to judge things as right vs. wrong/black vs. white, when there are overwhelming shades of gray).
I have anxiety. Anxiety causes uncontrolled and paralyzing self-doubt. I have learned to channel it, but I am left with the gift of self-reflection on amphetamines. On any particular issue, I have an opinion, but there is always room to step back and question if I am seeing all of the issue. I tend to ask myself how someone with an opposite view might see it. In other words, I force myself into looking at other perspectives. While I still might disagree, it helps me see the issue through someone else’s eyes as much as I am able.
I propose to you that we do ourselves no favors when we surround ourselves with people who share only our opinions. We do ourselves no favors when we dig in and refuse to look at someone else’s life experiences and viewpoints. I understand that doing so likely decreases our discomfort, but we learn to be intolerant of difference. We learn to fear difference. We do ourselves no favors when we demonize those who disagree with us. It seems ever commonplace to conclude from a disagreement that the other party is ignorant, selfish, crazy, or an all out asshole. This serves as self-comfort as we see ourselves as superior, but it is a thin veneer that separates us from self-created fear.
When it comes to differences, our world has many. No one owns the truth. No one understands all the differences, which is why we must listen to each other and for a moment, try to see life through different lenses. If we can practice humility — the skill of considering that we may be wrong — we will be so much more knowledgeable, flexible, and less hostile.
There is a certain freedom that comes with accepting that you are as clueless as the rest of us on ultimate truth. Free your mind, motherf***er. What do you have to lose?
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Originally published on Medium.com.