We've all heard the cliché, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," but embodying this wisdom is easier said than done.
The polarized social climate in which we live is deceiving. The arguments between long-time Facebook friends, the grudges formed over the upcoming election, and the critical opinions we form of the people embracing opposing viewpoints - all of this is a superficial layer of reality which distracts most people from sensing a more powerful truth beneath it all.
Recently I interviewed a young woman from Congo. Her name is Kahindo. She is a college graduate from Texas A& M who speaks six languages. She has lived life as a refugee, traveling from Congo to Uganda to U.S.A. in hopes of safety and opportunity.
Kahindo remembers being a child back in Congo. Looters would regularly ambush her village, using the force of gun violence to take whatever they wanted. Her mother would gather the kids and run into the forest, where they would hide all night, waiting in silent terror, wondering if their home would still be standing in the morning, or they would find it burnt to a crisp.
During my conversation with Kahindo she emphasized the importance for people to really listen to one another's reasons for feeling the way they do - especially on issues that incite emotional reactivity. Easier said than done, of course, but Kahindo provided a powerful example:
She sat with a few friends in Texas who were discussing gun control. These Texans were discussing how important it is for citizens to retain their right to bear arms to defend themselves if needed. Kahindo felt a visceral emotional response within herself. She had lived through countless atrocities, caused by common folk carrying guns in Congo, and using those guns to pillage and kill. Despite this first-hand experience with the dangers of gun violence, Kahindo calmed herself down and made the choice to listen to her friends with opposing views.
These types of disagreements often erupt into criticism, grudges, and even lost friendships, widening the gap of polarization within the human race. But if we look beneath the surface of this hot-button example on gun control, we can see that both parties were equally concerned with the very same thing: safety.
At the core of most of our policy arguments, there is most always a common ground existing within our hearts and minds: the universal need to feel safe, supported, and confident in the world.
As the Sufi poet Rumi wrote, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."
Watch the video below for a deeper conversation on how we can move beneath the surface in our social interactions to establish a sense of togetherness and cooperation as we press onward in the world.