I am a person who tends to prefer action and movement to stillness and reflection. I like to be moving, whether it is pedaling on my bike, running on my own two feet, actively listening and providing treatment in a therapy session, or completing a multitude of tasks for work or home. The process of writing requires solitude, sitting, and reflecting. So, why take the time to write?
Recently, the division in our country has grown and deepened. I feel this acutely. People I care about are on opposite sides, shouting past each other, fueled by CNN or Fox, depending on their side of the divide. Any issue arising is quickly seen through a partisan lens, COVID being the prime example of an issue that should not be partisan but continues to be. Armed groups have risen on both fringes of these extremes, but often the debates online are no less aggressive than what we see playing out in the streets.
I learned from my profession as a therapist what it means to truly listen. True listening requires listening with an attempt to understand the person before me, shifting my focus from myself and my needs to communicating the empathy and desire for others’ healing that is ever-present within me. Can this idea of empathic listening be translated to a written setting, with the purpose of healing the deep division in our society? I hope so. Though restless at times as I sit and type, I am living out this hope.
I believe that we can heal division by attempting to understand both sides. Words are powerful. Words create frameworks and visions. Words can hurt and words can heal. I believe if we sought to understand each other more often, we would not be experiencing the polarization, division, and violence that we are today. I hope the words expressed here will bring about greater understanding and ultimately, healing.
The words we say today have a direct effect on the possibility of a healed future. As we speak we can ask ourselves: are my words contributing to further understanding and building up, or to tearing down the human before me? Watching our words can be difficult. Learning to calm our bodies and minds before we react and speak is a skill that requires practice for many of us. I have at times “put my foot in my mouth” and regretted things I have spoken. However, I’ve learned it is never too late for grace–to apologize, reconcile, learn, and grow. Watching our words is emotional work, involving mindfulness and self-awareness. Like we say in the therapy community, “emotional work is hard work.” Yet, we can do it and we can all do better, for ourselves, for society, for our children.