We’ve got a lot of “vs.” going on in America right now. Right vs. left, Light vs. dark, pro-this vs. anti-that. When the stark reality of duality hits home and affects us, our families, and our friends, it’s exceedingly tough to avoid anger, fear, and bitterness. We can find ourselves slipping into a deep frustration that is difficult to remedy.
But rather than taking sides, we can choose another way. We can take a stand instead.
What is the difference?
Taking a stand has much more depth than taking sides. It requires going beyond arguments that leave both sides even more firmly entrenched in their way of seeing things. It recognizes that there are aspects of each person’s and group’s ideas that have merit. Taking a stand encompasses the responsibilities inherent not only in courageous action, but also in stepping back from our own opinions in order to observe the reasons that others hold the opposite viewpoint. This is also known as “becoming the observer”, and it can be quite the challenge to do when emotions run high.
Yet two things happen when we step back and observe. First, we find ways to connect others to our viewpoint. Likewise, we find ourselves seeing some benefits to or reasons for the other person’s actions.
If we took a poll in America today, dollars to donuts most people would agree that we are all well-schooled in divisiveness. And because of this deep entrenchment in the “us vs. them” mentality, it often doesn’t even occur to us that the calm, objective observation of an issue is half the battle to solving it.
Indeed, the courage required to take a stand has much more chance of long-term success when it is combined with the responsibility and maturity it takes to connect with “the enemy”. From this space grows a deeper understanding of ways to solve issues and regain Unity.
5 Ways to Become the Observer
- Read 10 pieces (or watch 10 videos) of people or groups who hold vastly different viewpoints than you.
- Number 1 admittedly can be very difficult to do, so remember the phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ when you’re ready to throw in the towel and scream “I can’t believe they THINK that way!” Keep reading.
- Write a well-formed response letter to each of the 10 people or groups. Your goal is to connect them to your viewpoint, ask questions about their’s, and find some common ground. Letter writing allows for several drafts – and this means stepping back and OBSERVING what you’ve written in order to make sure it properly conveys what you’d like to say.
- Combine your observations in the letters with the courage it takes to make a stand by sending at least 1 of these letters to the person or group in question. Email it, stick it in the comment section online, or go old school and send it via snail mail.
- Note any takeaways you see in yourself over the next few weeks after completing this letter-writing campaign. If there are any positive changes, you can start to incorporate these into your daily interactions with people in order to help create more Unity in this world.
Every collective change begins with individual change. Yes, writing 10 letters to “the other side” is time-consuming and potentially difficult. But we’re not going to move past divisiveness with the same strategy that got us into it in the first place. We need to start to practice the deep analysis it takes to come together as One. Americans don’t lack courage; it’s the wisdom to know how and when to use our courage that we all need to work on.
At least that’s this writer’s opinion. I’d love for the nation to prove me wrong.
“Unity, to be real, must stand the severest strain without breaking.” – Mahatma Ghandi