To stay well, we cannot avoid conflict, healthy discussion, open minded communication and honest debate.
Like so many elections, this year was full of heated debate, discourse, ugly and hurtful banter, accusations, insinuations and the very real and brutal unfolding of personal lives being exploited on national television. Every four years it seems this process gets harder and even less sensitive to the fact that real people are watching and listening as the candidates’ debate, not the issues, but their lives and who they are as people.
Rarely do we hear about the issues that will affect us as Americans’, how our businesses will be impacted, what benefits we will see in education, small business start-ups and economic development. Our election process consists of Facebook memes, Twitter comments, commercial viewing and media sensationalism. Once again the American public was forced to make a very difficult decision based on half-truths.
I think we all can agree that our election process is out of control. It creates friction, tension, unease, distress and boatloads of discomfort. More than ever, the American public has avoided any election conversation whenever possible. Water cooler politics at the office and dinner conversation with friends about the latest debate has dissipated. It has been a solid year full of tension and anxiety. Sadly, it isn’t over. Our country is so divided that we have stopped talking to people based on their political views, “defriended” our political enemies on Facebook (or “The FB” as I like to call it) and completely refuse to listen to any opinion but our own.
We have lost all control. We have lost the ability to debate. We have lost the ability to agree to disagree. We have lost the ability to embrace our differences, or at the very least to accept them. We have gained a tremendous amount of stress, disgust, resentment and hurt.
We are so emotionally frail as a country and as people. Our nerves are frayed, our friendships strained, our trust shaken, our mental well-being coming unraveled. We are in essence, socially unwell.
There is no fast way to recover from emotional distress. I am not here to provide a script for the American public that will ease our pain in 24 hours. What I can do is provide some perspective on emotional well-being.
What shapes our vote, like so many things, is what I like to call the human experience.
I would define the human experience as those interactions we have each day of our lives with the people and the environment around us. It is what shapes who we are, what we believe, sets our moral code, creates the boundaries by which we live, informs the decisions we make, guides the life we live and is by virtue the very thing that makes us unique.
Our own experience in life makes us who we are and holds the potential to push us toward change each and every day, if we allow it. Who we were ten years ago is often not who we are today. This is all due to the human experience. The people and the environment we are exposed to eases us into places of understanding and grace, if we allow it.
As we consider the political decisions of the opposing side (whichever that may be for you), let us be mindful of the fact that one experience doesn’t lead us to one decision. Our entire human experience is what leads us to choose the direction in our lives and the direction we feel the country should pursue. One debate doesn’t change the entire outcome of our human experience. Beliefs are not reshaped by one election commercial or media outlet. Each person has chosen to place their faith in a candidate based on their entire human experience, which is shaped by our entire life.
The judgement we place on someone for their political choice is a judgement we place on them as a human being. We take advantage of a person’s vulnerability by assuming we know their human experience and what has shaped their political decision. We don’t know their past, their present or their future. It hurts everyone when we place judgement on another human based on how they vote in one election. One decision does not define who we are as a whole human.
We wouldn’t dream of placing the kind of judgement on someone’s car buying decisions, yet many people keep their cars longer than we keep a President. We don’t place the same kind of judgement on someone for their religion, yet we keep a religion for a lifetime in many cases. No. We recognize that human experience shapes the decisions we make each and every day and that each person has a right to make these choices based on their own human experience.
When we pass judgement so harshly, we demonstrate a narrow-minded and unaccepting behavior. This makes us socially unwell. We choose and refuse to accept that human experience drives our decisions in politics, just like it does in other areas of our life.
Emotional well-being requires us to hold true to what we believe and to accept what we cannot change. We can choose to understand all of the factors that shaped that one vote, even if we disagree. We can choose to have an honest, respectful discussion about the experiences that led to that one vote. We can choose to have the conversation with friends on opposing sides and agree to disagree. To stay well, we cannot avoid conflict, healthy discussion, open minded communication and honest debate.
We can choose to accept what we believe to be true today and understand that each person in our lives, those people shaping our human experience, has an experience of their own. Staying well requires us to be emotionally vulnerable but mentally strong. We can disagree and still share in kindness and peace. We can choose to move forward as humans and be emotionally well, for ourselves and for our country