We were hit hard in Orlando yesterday. I say “we” because the attack didn't just touch the local Orlando community, it affected us all. Instead of weeping and mourning with our brothers and sisters, many are using it as a time to push agendas. But at such a time as this, we need unity.
We are divided more than ever by religion, race, wealth, and politics. Rather than finding ways to come together, we look for more ways to defend our views. Unity is essential to move forward. We must put a stop to the poisonous division killing us from the inside out and embrace others' hurt, fear, and pain as our own.
Here are five ways we can unite:
This seems simple, but how often do we listen? To effectively listen, we aren't thinking about our next defensive move or hateful response. Listening involves our full attention. This means no distractions and no agenda. We should approach conversations with an open mind and provide a safe place for others to express thoughts and opinions that differ from our own.
This can sometimes be more difficult when we aren't given respect in return. But no matter our beliefs, we are all human and should be treated with respect. Even if we find we agree in most areas, I guarantee you will find something you disagree about at some point. Respect should not be a result of agreement but instead, be our first response.
3. Find common ground.
As stated above, there will always be disagreements. So instead of looking for differences, look for the ways we are the same! Standing on common ground is easier than we think. Let's start where it's easy to understand and relate: we all want love, and we all want safety. Don't start going off on your thoughts about gun laws, mental illness, or LGBT rights during a time like this. Remain standing side by side on the common ground that holds us together.
4. Get to the root.
Why do you really feel so strongly one way or another? How have issues directly affected you? If we are unable to listen, respect, or find common ground with someone, getting to the root of the issue is the next step. Maybe our reasoning is “correct,” but maybe it's not. Either way, let's try to find out the “why” and see what impact it makes on our approach.
5. Set yourself aside.
I am not sure what could prevent us from being able to mourn for what happened in Orlando, but let's put the “me” aside for a second and think “they.” What is it “they” are feeling? What might “they” be going through? Let's share in the feelings of others and unite in empathy. Empathy for others is much stronger than any power we may have standing alone.
This is not the first or the last time this nation will be challenged. How will YOU respond?