If all you hear is the sound of your own voice, or the sound of your own opinions, or the sound of your own beliefs & values; you need to get your ears (really your “heart”) checked.
We live in a society where we are so far from the idea of civil discourse that we find ourselves deeply entrenched in our own sphere of comfort. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with finding a community where you feel safe, loved and valued in; but at the same time if you don’t have a good grasp on what is going on around you, then there is no way you can be effective in knowing how to react to the issues we face as a culture.
This is the greatest challenge we face today: how can we as a society when faced with disagreements, various beliefs, and differing values learn to listen, to respond, and to act in such a way as to promote our general welfare and not to denigrate each other’s value?
This is a big question with lots of sub-questions entangled. This question cannot be answered in one post or even in several posts or even in a book; this question has to be done in constant discourse where the result of it comes a wealth of knowledge, insight, and compassion.
To try to answer this question in part, I believe there are 4 “D’s” to healthy learning and engagement with one another:
You don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t have the desire to “get your facts straight” or to “go to the source” when it comes to being informed, then you are part of the problem. Social Media, especially Facebook, has become nothing but a cesspool of misinformation and outright hatred. The “meme culture” we have created is honestly beneath ourselves and yet we are willing to lower our self-respect to make a point; and that is not only foolish, but also unbecoming. You need to read. And you need to read constantly. And you need to read various viewpoints from various sources. Discovering means putting in the effort to understand and face the reality that there are many viewpoints to one issue and that not everything is “black and white”.
This is something we think we do all of the time, but we really don’t do it at all. We certainly don’t do it well. Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. Dialogue is the ablility to talk to another person calmly and intelligently. Yelling at someone or using ad hominem attacks is NOT dialogue. Dialogue takes what you have discovered and gives you the ability to process your thoughts in a way that is informed and that takes into consideration other people’s processes as well. Dialogue is key to processing ideas in a way that is helpful and informed.
So healthy dialogue should lead to a healthy debate process. Guaranteed someone is not going to agree with you on 100% of the issues and positions you believe in. No doubt there will be disagreement and differences but this is where true learning really begins. Because good ideas need clout for them to be good practices, debate is how we give ideas a sense of importance and validity. We have to learn to debate the issue, not the person. The person is NOT the issue. If an issue holds up, then it holds up; if it doesn’t, then it shouldn’t.
Throughout history, we have been in an never-ending process of debating ideas, beliefs, and values. The end goal should be that we can come together as a whole and state that this is what we are going to believe and do, and that this is what we are going to discard and not adopt for the good of all of us. This is where we need the most help and we need it now. We have got to determine what is truly good for all people. We have a lot of ideas out there that hurt people, oppress people, subjugate people into living a life that is not ideal or morally viable. Once we can agree on something, then we can adopt it as a way of living with one another. This process takes great time, energy, and intellect. It is up to all of us to live the lives we want, knowing that it isn’t going to be easy for many of us. But we live in a time when we can find for ourselves what is truly important, and therefore we might not have equal outcome, but I want to live in a world where we one day have equal opportunity.
Now, I don’t want to confuse anyone who might be thinking that I am advocating for a “centrist/compromise” mentality. I certainly am not. I know there are good ideas on the right and left and some even in the center. What I am advocating for is that we stop getting offended, triggered, and withdrawn when we face an idea or belief not aligned with ours. That we learn to mostly listen, to speak some, and to shout less (way less, almost none). That we can use reasoning and logic to create arguments for or against a position and not just emotion or experience. That we can see each other as dearly beloved by God and as valued, unique creations.
This is a world I want to live in, that I want my children to live in, that I want for everyone regardless of race, age, gender, sexual identity, different abilities, creed, religion, origins, social-economic status, or whatever other distinctions we use to separate ourselves.