I am not a public figure. I am not an important person whose name you know or should know. I am a wife and a mom of four. I have a background in counseling, but I currently work part-time from home as an Ambassador for Noonday Collection (which I love!). I am also someone who cares a lot about what is happening in the world around us, and I have a deep desire to be a part of making it better.
I am not a Republican or a Democrat, although I have voted for people from both parties. I am someone who does a lot of research on candidates and issues before I vote. And, I’m also okay asking hard questions and voting for the person I most believe in to do the job at hand. I don’t really believe that your beliefs are even YOURS until you can explain why it is that you believe what you believe. And, honestly, that is when it gets hard.
About 10 years ago, I stopped “watching the news” on a regular basis. I will occasionally watch if there is a big headline or if I feel like I need to know how something is being reported. But it is a very rare occurrence for me. Around the time I quit watching the news, I decided to become an Independent. Both decisions were very intentional for me, because I didn’t want a political party or a news channel to sway my beliefs or tell me how I should feel about a specific subject. So, I started reading the news. I read a lot of news articles from a lot of different sources and try to focus on the ones that seem to rely more on reporting facts than sharing opinions.
A few weeks ago, I read an article that I thought was interesting. It was written by a source that I personally trust, which is important to me. It was an article that was not only well-written, but it struck a chord deep within me. Often, when that happens, I will share the article on social media. Occasionally, I will share my opinion on the article or why I feel like it is important, but this particular day I didn’t. I decided to share a quote directly from the article because I didn’t feel like I personally had anything beneficial to add to what had been written so well.
Sharing an article like that wasn’t unusual for me. I don’t fill up my feed with these types of posts, but I will share things I find personally beneficial, in case someone else like me might be interested in reading them as well. What was different about what I shared that day was that within a short time of sharing it, my feed blew up. I had family, friends and acquaintances commenting and weighing in on the article I had shared. But, while some people shared good information and helpful insights, others began calling people names and insulting people I care about. Some really horrible things were said. I had friends sending me private messages and texts asking me what in the world was going on. And, it went on, and on, and on for the better part of two days. That may not seem like a lot to you, but for me, watching people I know and love saying terrible things from behind their computer or phone screens, over an article I had shared, was truly insane to me. By the end of the first day, I had an actual headache.
These last few years have been shocking for me as someone who just wants to know the truth. Reading the news, searching for facts, and trying to gain an understanding of what is actually going on has sometimes felt like a part-time job. Then, listening to people, both the media and political figures, telling blatant lies has just about sent me over the edge. They get away with lying because they know that most people aren’t taking the time to research the information for themselves and are not listening for much more than a sound bite. Most people, it seems, just don’t want to take the time to dig for the truth.
My heart truly is to share the truth with people like me who are trying to find it. I am a truth seeker who I believe that God has also called to be a truth speaker. I want to be a voice for people who wonder if they are the only ones who don’t feel good voting the way other people think they should. Sometimes people feel pressure to vote a certain way or for a certain person or party because they grew up being told that was the only way to vote. Or, maybe they have been told that Christians or people of faith have to vote a certain way or they aren’t really a Christian. Or, maybe it is another voice in their head telling them that just because they have been told it is how they “should” vote, that it just doesn’t feel right. I want people to know that it is okay to ask questions, to consider alternative options, and to vote your own beliefs. I always tell people (and my kids) that my husband and I don’t agree with each other on everything when it comes to politics or social issues, and we are okay with that. We are two very different people, of different genders, raised in different parts of the country, with two different life experiences and two different work backgrounds. I think it would be crazy if we agreed on everything. So, it doesn’t even make sense to me that if he and I can’t agree on everything, that whole groups of people or races or religions or faith groups would agree on everything. If no one has ever said it to you before, let me say it now. It is okay to have your own beliefs and vote your own way.
But, one thing my husband and I try hard to do is to talk about all of it – what we agree on and what we don’t. And, we try to listen to each other and really want to understand why the other one feels the way they do. I learn a lot from him, even when we don’t agree. Maybe even especially when we don’t agree. Over the years, I have developed a sort of “rules of engagement” for myself that I try to follow when it comes to political discussions or sensitive subjects, especially when I choose to share something on social media. Here are some of the rules I try to follow:
1.) If I’m posting on social media, I almost always lead with an article that was helpful for me, that’s from a source I personally trust. It provides a great reference point to go back to. When the conversation starts to veer off into unchartered territory, you can pull (or attempt to pull) the conversation back to the article that started the conversation. It is also a less divisive starting point. It’s better to say, “I really loved this person’s writing about this” or “this article helped me understand this issue a lot better” than it is to start with something like, “Wow. Who else thinks __________ is a JERK?”
2.) I try to stick to the subject matter at hand. People who disagree in this day and time seem to prefer the tactic of distraction, so this is an important skill to learn. So, when someone says, “Yeah, but this other person is MORE of a jerk,” it is important not to take the bait. A lot of times, distraction is appealing to people because sitting in the uncomfortable is hard. The counselor in me gets that. But, I also know that when we truly listen and try to learn from each other, that we grow as individuals. My views have evolved a lot over the years, mostly because of hard conversations with people I know who believe differently than me. However, the goal of these types of conversations shouldn’t necessarily be to change someone else’s beliefs. The goal is to walk away with mutual respect and understanding for someone who sees the world a little bit differently than you. And, sometimes, very surprisingly, you might discover that you share some middle ground.
3.) This should be a given, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Be kind and respectful to everyone, even when you disagree. Also, try to be truly curious about what others believe. Ask questions to better understand the why behind someone else’s beliefs. Be willing to go with kindness into uncomfortable spaces and just sit and listen and be respectful of the fact that other people’s beliefs are just as personal and important as your own.
4.) I try not to comment with anything that is inflammatory. That can be HARD to do sometimes. So, I have learned that when those snippy or snarky responses come to my mind, that I need to take a break from the conversation. It isn’t a healthy discussion anymore at that point.
5.) Resist the urge to stoop to someone else’s level if it gets ugly. Some people cannot have a productive conversation when they don’t agree. If all they can do is hurl insults or call names, then they probably aren’t interested in having a meaningful conversation or learning more about what someone else believes. And, it might be better to just disengage with them.
A few weeks ago when I shared the article I mentioned earlier, I laid in bed that night trying to figure out why this post blew up the way that it did in a way that so many other posts I shared had not. And, finally it hit me like a ton of bricks. The article was about white supremacy and racism. The subject matter was a trigger for people. As someone who wants to believe the best about people and our society, I see these types of issues as problems that need to be confronted. And, what I realized after posting the article is that a lot of people either don’t see a problem with racism, don’t think America has a problem with racism, or don’t think racism is a problem that needs to be addressed. I was honestly surprised to find that this is an issue that is still very divisive in this day and time. So, even though it was not an easy conversation, I learned a lot. Even if I didn’t like what I learned from it. And, that, at the end of the day, made the conversation a win for me.