Post from Up with People President & CEO Dale Penny
Enough! It is time for action to build respect, civility, trust…and perhaps to find some common ground and unity. None of us should be proud of the way much of our society has become divided, disrespectful and even fearful of those “others” who may look, worship, believe, live or simply vote differently. Our social fabric seems to be stretched to the point of shredding and recent tragedies leave us grasping for answers.
Sadly, too many of those on whom we should depend for leadership are not helping find those answers. It is up to us, the people of all political parties, ethnic groups, faiths and backgrounds to take positive action to reduce the climate of disrespect, refuse to accept dehumanizing and hateful language and bring us together as a society.
Let’s face it, that won’t be easy. Most of us hold our beliefs and opinions for legitimate reasons based on our experiences. For the good of our society, however, we must not allow ourselves to see those whose opinions or beliefs differ from our own to be seen as the enemy. Having opposing views does not give you, me or anyone the right to insult, belittle or commit hateful acts against those with whom we disagree.
Most of our home countries are increasingly diverse places. That will not change. With historically high numbers of transient populations many of our nations will continue to become more multi-cultural with each generation. The reality is that the future will not be built only by those who are like “us” or with whom we always agree. Our future will only be built by learning to accept, listen, learn, share with and find common ground with those “others.”
What can we do? Let’s start by expecting greater respect and civility from ourselves, each other and our leaders and by taking action to change the political and social climate. I’m not talking about a simplistic “just sing Kumbaya and we’ll all be friends” solution. It will take making commitments to do the hard work of building understanding, empathy and trust. Let me propose a few steps to start with:
- Accept that others have as much right to their opinion as we do.
- Respect the values, beliefs, lifestyle and opinions of others as much as we expect them to respect ours.
- Assume goodwill on their part until they prove otherwise.
- Assume that they have come to their point of view partially through rational reasoning and partially through irrational emotion…exactly the combination which has led us to our viewpoint.
- Start by listening to understand their side. Be open to the idea that their opinions may be valid.
- State our opinions without demeaning the other side personally.
- Focus on those areas of agreement rather than looking for what divides us.
- When we find ourselves being dragged into the mud, stop, take a deep breath and start fresh at the top.
This is not, of course, a magic solution, and by practicing these basic concepts we may or may not reach agreement. But both sides can walk away feeling respected and valued as fellow members of the human family. Does this seem “doable”? If not, then we are destined to continue on the path of tribalism, fear, ugliness and division. But if it does, then let’s try it.
The upcoming holiday season gives us an opportunity with our families and friends with whom we may or may not agree. Just start with intentionally practicing civil and respectful discussions with those we love. Maybe, just maybe, we can all have more joyous and less stressful holidays and we can start the new year feeling a little bit better about ourselves, each other, our social framework and our future together. Who knows how it might spread and what good might come from it? It is up to us!
“It begins with us, will you stand with us?
The moment is here and now
It begins with us, it won’t end with us!
The moment is moving on.”It Begins With Us© Up with People
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Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.
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