“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
– Jennifer Dukes Lee
What can I do in a decidedly difficult week for many of us, myself included? I thought I would take my weekly Words for Wednesday and expand it for the week. Certainly I will provide the normal Wednesday video message generally between 90 seconds and 2 minutes in duration. But additionally for this week, I will follow up this Monday blog exploration with a daily message in the blog comment and on our social media with the intent of providing additional support and insight to the meaning and possibility we can personally choose to pursue for ourselves and our communities. One simple daily quote and thought to provide a little positive perspective amidst all the election week realities.
This election cycle is evoking many powerful reactions which are likely to culminate in an emotionally intense week before, during, and after the actual election. It has been a very long run of building divisiveness, investment, and focus on this finish. I know from my experience as a runner of many distances that it is easy to get caught up in the race and the competition.
One lesson I learned, albeit slowly, which I believe could help any of us during this critical time, involves understanding our role in this or any race. Ultimately we are each competing to be the best we can be. I learn all the things I can to prepare my mind and body for a race, I train to make both as ready as I’m reasonably able, and then I give my best effort to the experience. I’ve had the incredible good fortune to win my division a couple of times but in general I’m not a faster runner than many of the people crossing the finish line long before me. That is simply ok. I measure myself by myself. This means in terms of what I hope to get out of the experience as well as how I compare to my reasonable expectations based on my past performances, the conditions and the race day environment.
How then to relate this in these divisive times with many of us feeling so much is on the line, potentially with different desired outcomes? I hope we all make all of our choices with as much informed preparation as possible and I certainly ensure I do this for myself. I then own my choices in how I will interact with everyone else in regards to this experience.
I certainly understand the election result matters and is deeply personal for many. Before I can even attempt to understand the reasons why various people have different perspectives, I choose to understand that I do not know all of their reasons. If I truly want to understand their reasons, it involves more listening and asking earnestly rather than aggressively. I do know the choice to share or impose my opinions on them is often likely to evoke defensive reactions which will rarely invite them to truly hear me nor entice them to truly share with me their own. Trust is earned and built in stages with care and concern. As such I want all of my approaches to begin with kindness and compassion.
Now, we don’t have to engage in this exploration but if we choose to pass judgments or mistreat because of uninformed beliefs in others reasons, we only add to the difficulty of this divisiveness. In fact, my part of how we treat each other is the fundamental accountability I want to own. It’s like my race example: we all can get a focus on the finish line at times. All the other factors are far more significant than that finish line and how we perform all along the course is of high importance.
The race all of us are trying to win is really about elevating the human race. We cannot poison ourselves or those around us by our words or actions and expect it not to have a detriment on us all. If any of our actions delight in another’s dismay, we are, to my way of believing, heading the wrong way fast. Being gracious, kind, compassionate, understanding and patient is a lot to ask and I certainly fail at many of those more times than I would prefer. The more I realize I’m not competing with my fellow members of humanity, the more easily I can avoid these miscues and correct my missteps. The more readily I can choose for myself the right course and hope they might take a similar path. The more comfortable I get with understanding this is right the less difficult it becomes for me to respond to less than ideal reactions by others and often the more readily I find they do choose to respond positively to my approach.
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”
– Bob Kerrey