So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
—John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
As we head toward the national election here in the United States, divisions between and among people are deep and raw. During contentious times as these, we often hold even tighter to our views; we lose patience and our ability to listen.
Arbitrary and imagined borders—whether political, geographic, skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion—can and do divide us. We forget our commonality. We forget that the spark within us is mysteriously, indelibly connected.
Perhaps we can use this moment, at a time when we are told that we are as divided as ever, to allow a little fresh air, a little more spaciousness, into our minds and hearts.
We can start by loosening our tight grip on our views, enough to allow us space to listen. We don’t have to give up our principles to simply listen. Consider that there is something to be learned from each other. Rather than skim the surface, we can take a deeper dive, beyond labels and judgments, and take time to ask a question and listen carefully to the response.
In our online culture, we can step away from the screen and speak or meet each other face-to-face for more challenging conversations. And, let’s remember to bring our hearts as well as our heads to each encounter, knowing that we are more than our views and that our views have been forged by a variety of factors, some very personal and sometimes painful.
We know this is a difficult one! We welcome your wisdom and invite you to share what practice(s) you use to cultivate civility.