I spent the past ten days in Europe with my sister, visiting Paris, England, Northern Ireland and Ireland. One of the things I enjoyed about the trip (besides quality sister time, amazing food and gorgeous architecture) was gaining distance from the U.S. — a country I love, but for the time being, seems to have lost its mind.
While I was away, I purposefully didn’t watch the news or read many newspapers. Once I landed, it seemed that not only was the craziness still in full swing, but somehow, there seemed to be even more of it. More derogatory, rude, misogynistic, thoughtless actions and words than before.
As I caught up on news and watched new stories unfolding, all I could think is that not only have we lost our minds in the mayhem to which we’re growing accustomed, but we have also lost our souls’ ability to hear, and we’re saying unthinkable things because our consciences are going deaf.
Yes, there are lots of examples of this in the political arena. Veiled threats of violence against other candidates, accusations that Obama founded ISIS, and Trump’s 13-member, all-male team of financial advisors to which he added women only when there was public outcry against the blatant exclusion of female voices.
But there have been so many other examples of this.
A woman who wrote a condescending and offensive blog for the Gospel Coalition called, “When God Sends Your White Daughter A Black Husband,” which read more like it was written in the 1960’s era of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner than in 2016. (The post has since been removed because readers decried it as “tone-deaf”, “un-Christian” and “racist.”)
And then there was the Canadian sports commentator who said a 14-year-old female Chinese swimmer “died like a pig” in the water when she apparently slowed her team down in a relay race and caused them to take 4th place.
Ghandi once said that “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
I think in our current cultural climate, we’re not so much at risk of losing our sight as we are of losing our hearing.
We have been shouting at each other for so long, letting anger and fear and pride motivate us to raise our voices to increasingly harmful decibels, that we are going deaf.
We have lost our ability to hold civil discourses, sometimes literally resorting to screaming matches instead.
We have lost our ability to listen, choosing to close up our minds and begin forming a retort before the other person has even finished speaking.
We have lost interest in hearing other perspectives, choosing to double down on our own without even considering that we might be wrong — or, at least, might not be seeing the whole picture.
Psychological studies have shown that we are, indeed, going tone-deaf as a culture. When people scroll through their Facebook feed, they linger longer on stories they agree with than stories with a different perspective — hence the reason why Facebook has an algorithm to put more stories into our feed that we will like, limiting stories that we might dislike or disagree with.
When a psychology professor asked students to listen to another student present a different opinion, students recalled less than half of what the other student said because they were too busy disagreeing and dismantling the other person’s argument.
In the sadness and chaos and noise of the day, I can see only one forward. One path that follows the way of Jesus. One way to heal the deafness we’ve created from yelling at each other.
Stop shouting. Because arguments are rarely won by over-shouting the other side. And, shouting leads people to respond to your anger, rather than being able to respond to the content of your words.
Start listening. It’s completely counter-cultural, but choosing to stop speaking and start listening is powerful. When we listen to our enemies, we not only diffuse the situation, but we also remove the need for them to keep shouting. Also, when we begin listening, we hear what the Spirit — the still, small voice — is trying to whisper to our souls.
Speak with your life. One of the things that’s led to the fury of the current political discourse is because we’ve bought into the idea that casting one vote in November is the only opportunity we have to create change, which is simply not true. Yes, it’s important to vote. Yes, the election does matter. But what matters more is not what we do on November 8th — but the other 364 days of the year. We get to vote with our lives every day.
With our posture, with our lives, with our actions and with our radical commitment to peace, we can follow the way that leads to a world that’s infused with love….even if it takes a while for others to listen, and follow.
Please note: This post is not about specific political positions, and it is not a debate for or against a specific political candidate. As always, please feel free to comment on the ideas contained within the post, but please avoid using the comment section as a place to vent your personal political opinions. That behavior is exactly what I’m talking about in this post, and any heated political comments will be deleted.