Be The Exception

Let me be upfront and say this is not going to be one of my usual posts. But I have been processing a lot of things over the past couple of days, and have some things I want to say. Some of you may choose not to read any further, or not read this whole post. That’s ok. No hard feelings. Maybe some of you will stick with me and hear me out. I hope so. Maybe this is something I just had to say so I can go back and read it again when I need a reminder.

I’m sure everyone is well aware of the events of the past weekend and all the conversations that have been going on since then. The thing that has struck me in all of these conversations and that I keep coming back to, is the fact that the real issue seems to keep getting lost in conversations that only continue to perpetuate this real issue.

What has amazed me continually over the past couple of days is that the stories that are constantly popping up in my news stream are more about how certain people responded (or didn’t) to the issues, and not about the issues themselves. It has become another example of  armchair quater backing by those who are not involved in the decisions and don’t have all the facts, using the opportunity to point out why the other side is wrong and highlight all their shortcomings (which, ironically, is part of the issue).

The one story I actually saw that came close to highlighting the issue, chose instead to focus on a game of “who said it best” comparison between leaders instead of on the actual message.

I have no political clout what-so-ever, and no one is going to accuse me of saying it best, I am sure, so I wanted to say it again here and let it soak in for a minute.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite” ~Nelson Mandela

We were not born hating anyone. So why have we so willingly allowed hate and anger and disparaging others to become our default response to anything anymore? When did we lose sight of the fact that no matter our skin color, religious beliefs, political views or anything else that sets us apart and makes us “different” that we are all still human beings? Why is it the minute someone dares to disagree with us, or express an opinion that might differ from ours we are so quick to tear them down and tear them apart; attacking not just the differing viewpoint but who they are as human beings?

Is part of it because we all so easily have a “voice” now with the plethora of social media platforms available to us? Or because those platforms allow us to voice this anger and hate safely and anonomously from our own living rooms, hidden behind our keyboards? I wonder: Would we be so quick to say those same hurtful things if we had to look the person we were tearing down in the eye and remember they are in fact a human being?

And here’s the real kicker. Even if we are standing up for the “right” side of the issue, if we do it using the same hate, anger and disparaging comments, doesn’t that make us just as wrong? This only spurs more anger and hate from the other side and drags us further down the path of division and conflict.

It has to stop somewhere.

“…People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite”

If we learned to hate somewhere along the way, can’t we un-learn it, just like any of the other bad habits we have picked up along the way? It won’t be easy, just like dumping any bad habit isn’t easy. It seems to have become part of who we are as a culture.  But doesn’t it start with making the choice to not engage in the hate and the anger, and instead choose to try a different strategy and respond with hope and love? Wouldn’t it be harder for the other side to continue to respond with the hate and anger, if it isn’t being fueled with more of the same, but instead dampened with it’s opposite? And I know that I am going out on a limb here, but what if we remebered that the person behind all the hate and anger on the other side is still a human being too? They, at some point, had to learn that hate somewhere. And what incentive do they have to change or learn anything new if all they are seeing reflected back to them is more of the same?

Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that the hate and horribleness that was demonstrated in Charlottesville this weekend is the majority opinion of our country. I still believe that there are more of us that still believe in love and humanity and hope. I think that the group that wants to propegate hate and conflict have just chosen not to be silent, and are getting the attention that goes with speaking out. So what if those of us who believe in love and hope decided we weren’t going to be silent any longer either? And not in a hateful, confrontational, angry way, but in a loving way, focused on inspiring unity and bringing us together? The “Golden Rule” became golden for a reason, so what if we focused more on only responding in ways and saying things we would be okay with hearing or receiving about ourselves?

I realize most of us probably aren’t in highly influential roles or the public eye, so our default response may be “what can I do about anything”? But it has to start somewhere. So what if each of us chose to be the Exception in our small circle of influence? What if instead of engaging in the negative conversations on Facebook or Twitter or whatever platform you are on, we chose to start a positive one instead? What if instead of returning insults and anger to someone who may have chosen to disagree with us, we return love? What if we had every conversation as if we were looking the other person in the eye?

If each of us chose to be the Exception where we are, and could maybe affect 5 people, who chose to be the Exception where they are, could the Exception eventually become the Rule?

I am in no way trying to say I have it all figured out, but these are the things I’ve been wondering over the past couple days. While I hope I can say I have never been part of the anger and hatred on the scale that was seen this weekend, I have definitely been guilty of anger on a smaller scale.  And for that I am truly sorry.

But I have a choice. As do you. Every day. We can get bogged down in the past and stay stuck and continue to perpetuate the cycle. Or we can choose today to be the Exception and try to make love and hope the rule.

I choose to be the Exception.

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