“To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.”
Yesterday, I asked a family member, “Should we talk politics at Thanksgiving this year?” Her answer: “No, I don’t think so. Not a good idea.”
Another family member heard this, and said, “I hope we do. You and I don’t agree on much politically, but I want to listen to what you have to say. I love you know matter what you say, anyway. You’re family.”
I thought the last answer was wise. Listening takes practice. Love comes first.
Unfortunately at the moment, many are more inclined to over-engage or not engage at all. Some want to project or yell their opinions, defend their positions or rationalize certain politicians’ behavior. Some even blame or shame. Others retreat completely, believing talking politics is a no-win situation. They prefer a safe space.
The over- and under-engagers have quite a bit in common, unknowingly or knowingly. They aren’t learning much. Both sides are digging trenches. They are soldiers in a sense, not scouts on a mission to learn more.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week showed nearly one-third of all adults will actively avoid political conversations when they see friends and family over the holidays, while almost half said they do not expect to discuss politics at all. This is something I believe we must reverse if we are to end our uncivil war.
To this, some will say, “You don’t understand my family. We have someone who always goes off, and we can’t have a conversation. It’s just best to avoid.”
Avoidance can work, no question. However, I believe there’s a better way to handle these situations. It does require work, patience and a long-term view. But mostly love. Here are some questions you might ask yourself, and even share with family members before Thanksgiving Day.
What can your family do together before the meal? Maybe serve the less fortunate, get some exercise together, and talk about the many values you share?
Are you more inclined to be curious or furious when you hear a different opinion?
Are you offended when learning something new, or proud like a scout?
Do you hear or listen? Do you react quickly or process new information slowly? Do you respond with questions or firm statements?
Can you love everyone at the table, as all religions and great spiritualists teach, no matter what is said?
Often, it’s the reaction to something someone says that snowballs into frustration and anger. There’s a pre-meal solution. Place peace, love, laughter and understanding next to your turkey, gravy and stuffing, and you’ll be able to handle anything someone says about Trump, Judge Moore, Hillary or Bernie. Here are a few more quotes from the book I hope will help.
“Teach thy tongue to say ‘I do not know,’ and thou shalt progress.”
“The wind of anger blows out the lamp of intelligence.”
“Don’t waste any time dividing the world into the good guys and the bad guys. Hold them both together in your own soul—where they are anyway— and you will have held together the whole world. You will have overcome the great divide in one place of spacious compassion.”
—RICHARD ROHR, “THERE IS NOTHING TO REGRET,” 2017