I have a buddy, Luke Ash. He’s one of those guys that just opens his mouth and wisdom comes out easy as an exhale. He taught me the miracle of and.
Friday I ran into Mr. Meigs, he and our buddy James have got this new thing, everything is OK. And I really like it - especially the confessional tone of the first few posts.
Because for me confession is beautiful, it’s the preamble to forgiveness and the postscript to faith. And it’s a builder of bridges, a mender of torn things. So I must confess…
When I’m in the heat of the moment, when a conversation is live-wired and fluid, when I’m full throttle, all-in with both my heart and head about any subject at all, I tend to respond to your statement with “But [insert my opinion]”. What I usually mean is, “let me clarify” or “that’s not how I see it”. But what you probably hear is, “you’re wrong, let me tell you how wrong you are, jerk.” And for that I’m truly sorry.
“But” is a little word that packs a colossal punch. It’s become the great negator, the indiscriminate disrespector of ideas. So I’ve had to re-learn how to talk. I’ve had to learn to say and.
So maybe you say, “Blueberry muffins are the best.” And secretly I loathe blueberry muffins, but instead of coming across as dismissive I can say, “And what about lemon poppy seed muffins!” See what I did there? I told you what I liked while validating what you liked. Even though I hate what you like. Simple enough. You’d think….
We are in the most volatile political season of my life. The vitriol and insults are reaching a fevered pitch. We’ve forgotten how to speak to each other. We’ve forgotten how to be nice. With the free and ever more ubiquitous platforms of social media everyone can have their voice heard. But instead of an egalitarian discourse it’s just everybody shouting over everybody else. And the most obnoxious and inflammatory people often get heard the loudest. You have the right to your opinion, BUT….
And yet after the election, after this crisis or the next one, we are still neighbors. And no matter how much is at stake, no matter how much you and I have on the line, we still must find a way to co-exist peacefully. We must find a way to love each other in spite of differences. Now I know that can sound like a utopian pipe dream, AND I hear you, although I believe it is possible to do better, hard as it may be. It starts with the miracle of and.
Let’s practice some more - on some tough ones. These are actual, very charged statements by friends of mine, I merely joined them with and. I’ve purposefully not added commentary to these deeply divisive but critically important issues, nor am I drawing a moral equivalent to the sentiments on either side of that and. I am merely suggesting that dialogue begins when both parties know they are being heard.
“I believe no one should EVER be shot for resisting arrest, and I raised my kid to not resist arrest so he doesn’t get shot.”
“I believe all lives matter, and it’s urgent, of critical importance that we remind our country black lives matter.”
“I believe in the right to bear arms, and we need sensible gun reform.”
“I believe there are racist cops who let that cloud their judgment, and there are many brave, selfless policemen and women that are truly officers of the peace.”
Not every side of an issue has an easy right or wrong. And not every statement requires my response. Life is nuanced. We are nuanced. There are black and white things in the universe, AND life is shot through with every shade of grey. We are all a bundle of contradictions, AND there can be no progress without working together. So we must start by learning to listen, by thoughtfully weighing the arguments of others, whether we agree with them or not, and then, and only then, state our opinions in a respectful non-dismissive way.
I’m not so good at this. But…I mean, AND I’m really trying to be.