For those of us who spend a great deal of time connected to social media, a hole of negativity threatens to suck us in as the day progresses.
The politician from the “other” team said something we don’t like, so we dig.
A celebrity is too much of this or too little of that, and we dig.
Someone challenges our beliefs about racism, classism, sexism, and all the other -isms, we dig deep.
Stories of crime and disparity leave us feeling helpless, we dig deeper still.
We dig by hurling insults at one another. We dig by dividing our society into “us” and “them” camps. We dig by suppressing our own pain into cycles of passive aggressive madness. We dig by silencing the voices of anyone whose experience threatens our tapered reality. We dig by trying to impose our views on lives and bodies that are not our own.
By the end of the day, we dig holes so deep that our self-righteousness leaves us reeling without grace tossing and turning through the night wondering if we went deep enough to secure our redemption.
Good people. People with advanced degrees. Church members. Patriotic people. Intelligent folks. People from various ages and stages of life who use cruelty to legitimize their views, to emphasize their points, to pacify resistance, and to maintain distance from a reality that doesn’t compliment their own. Guilt, ignorance, indifference, arrogance, unearned privilege, and culpability are hard pills to swallow.
What do we gain as individuals and as a people when we spend the better part of the day thinking of ways to dig at one another? When we use our time and energy to dig into one another just to prove a point? Is it so important to be right or to feel superior that we demonize, dehumanize, vilify, and brutalize one another?
I’ve been through a lot in my life and I’ve overcome a tremendous amount of hardship to live the life I live today. I’ve experienced rejection; I’ve been physically and sexually victimized; I’ve been lied on; I’ve been talked about; I’ve been homeless; I grew up in poverty; my parents are dead…I could go on about the difficulties I’ve faced. I share these things about my life not to gain sympathy or pity from anyone because my needs are beyond those things at this point in time.
I share these things to emphasize that even with all the negativity I have experienced in my life, I have no desire to gossip, hurl insults, lose sleep over plotting revenge, or get into an online dispute attacking someone who disagrees with me. If I hated everyone who resembled someone who hurt me or had views that were different from mine, there would be no one left to love. Likewise, if I invested all my energy into defending my beliefs, there would be no time to practice them.
What if we could sit with the feelings caused by disappointment, disagreement, or discomfort, and then were able to release these feelings in ways that didn’t include attacking others?
There are physiological benefits to learning how to deal with conflict. If we aren’t careful, the graves we dig for others could very well end up being the graves we dig for ourselves.
Peace is only possible if we generate it.