We humans can do amazing things together. Think of all the beauty we’ve created in the world. From wall paintings to skyscrapers, we’ve come together to leave awe-inspiring marks on our home.
We’ve also seen people come together to help. Those that rush in when waters rise or the wind blows represent an unforgettable reminder that we can do so much for so many of our brothers and sisters. And we don’t even have to really know them to help.
And, we can be pretty cruel, too.
I recently re-read an old story about people wanting to stone someone who expressed something other than what the ‘learned’ believed, what was ‘accepted’ at the time. Now, this was a long time ago when ‘stoning’ was a thing. Thankfully, it’s practice has reduced dramatically but intergroup strife is still just as prevalent.
There have been lots of examples of the cruelty of groups towards individuals and smaller groups in the past. Some of these attacks were because of something that could not be controlled like skin color or the family into which they were born. Other persecutions were caused by a person’s choice, like the religion they followed or customs they observed. Still others are based on opinions or beliefs.
We no longer ‘throw stones’ to demonstrate our displeasure. Instead, we slander or mock or shout down. In many cases, we gather a group of like-minded friends and ignore or cancel the ‘offending’ person. (‘Cancelling’ or casting out is not a new phenomenon. It’s just more public now. The whole world can see it happen rather than just a small group.)
Maybe they don’t wear the right clothes or believe the same things are cool or are a part of a family that has decided to follow a different religious tradition… or none at all. These experiences are as old as the stones we once threw.
Careful What You Wish For
When we start to ‘throw stones’, we’ve shut ourselves off from both curiosity and humility. Rather than screaming ‘what are you saying?!’, perhaps we’d be better off asking ‘what if?’
The Wright Brothers were mocked relentlessly… until they changed the world by flying their plane. Dr. King was ridiculed, discriminated and imprisoned… until his message became a movement that forced the most powerful country in the world to change its laws. Ann Frank was hunted and hidden… until her words positively influenced millions.
If you find yourself checking for good rocks and warming up your shoulder, you may want to take a minute to think: If the situation were reversed and I was to on the receiving end of this, would I like to be stoned or yelled at or ‘cancelled?’ Would I think that fair?
Most likely, you wouldn’t. Because, in almost all situations, it’s not fair and it’s not right. People can have different opinions or thoughts or beliefs. If it weren’t for disagreements, we humans wouldn’t have learned so much. It’s through open (and even semi-open) back and forth that we are able to learn and change and grow.
Courage to (Really) Listen
Weequahic, it takes courage to listen and ponder something with which you don’t agree, to ask questions with the intent to understand, to ‘reach across the aisle.’ This process takes (a lot) longer than reacting to a text or a headline. But the work is worth it.
You may learn something. Even if you only learn that the human on the ‘other side’ has thought deeply about their position and simply made a different choice, that could be enough. You don’t have to hang out with them or even like them, but I hope you’ll respect their right to choose and have their own opinion.
That takes courage… both ways. And, even though we may have differences, we are a whole lot more alike than we are different. Have a great weekend.