|I read a news story this week that saddened me, but unfortunately, it didn’t really surprise me.
It was about how our country has never been more polarized. The article also reported that those who label themselves as Democrat or Republican focus more on what they hate about the other, than on what is positive about their respective affiliations.
That kind of negativity, anger, division and divisiveness is what led me to become an Independent a few years ago. I wanted out of that closed mindset. Out of the angry back and forth. Out of seeing the “other” as the enemy.
That choice led me to instead focus my thoughts on what I was for, not against. It led me to search my soul and shift my focus onto the pillars that I believe in and the values that I admire (compassion, empathy, collaboration, consciousness, care, kindness, and love being just a few).
It also allowed me to surround myself with people whose aspirations are positive, forward-thinking and unifying. I’ve moved away from people who complain non-stop and toward those who espouse positive views of others and who challenge themselves to come up with solutions to make our country stronger.
Today, I consciously choose to be in conversation with others who are asking us all to be kinder, less judgmental, more open-minded, and more accepting (individuals like my friends Brian Grazer and Glennon Doyle Melton, who share their voices exclusively with you today).
The truth is, we can all be less judgmental and more accepting. We can do better at accepting our differences and accepting those who may not look like us or think like us, but who are still good, kind, loving and able people. (Our Architect of Change of the Week Gordon Hartman is one individual who is helping lead us in this direction.)
Over the years, I have worked in unison with Democrats and Republicans. I have met good men and women in both parties who are united in the belief that we can be more socially compassionate, environmentally conscious, fiscally responsible and be accepting of our shared humanity.
Let’s be real: labels divide us and lead us to assumptions about the other. Assumptions lead to judgments, which in turn make it harder to accept what is. Accepting what is requires presence and focus.
Now, let me be honest. Acceptance has been somewhat challenging for me because I’m one of those people who in the past just assumed that if I worked hard enough at something, I could get it to work like I imagined. How arrogant of me.
But then a friend said to me, “You know, Maria, there is your business, there’s the other person’s business, and then there is God’s business. Whenever you are in someone else’s business—God included—you are in the wrong business.”
Letting go of other people’s business and accepting what is has turned out to be a huge relief for me. It’s also given me more time! I’ve also learned that just because we accept something as it is, it doesn’t mean we have to let go of our hope or our aspirations for ourselves.
There are quite a few things in my own life that I don’t like (I’m not going to tell you), but I accept them as they are today. But, I’m also focused on aspiring to do better and I’m hopeful about what’s to come. I’m hopeful not just about my own life, but the life of our country. (Yes, I really am!)
I accept that we are divided. I accept that the two-party system is divisive. I accept that the mainstream media and other media can and must do better. But, I don’t believe we have to stay as-is.
Imagine if we all became Independents. Imagine if we all dropped the assumptions about the “other.” Imagine if we got out of minding other people’s business and used all that mental energy to focus on how we can be kinder, more loving, more compassionate, and more inclusive.
Imagine if we used our mental energy to focus on conversations that brought us together (thank you, Janet Mock), and focused on issues that we could agree on.
Imagine the world that way, and then start building it—conversation by conversation, idea by idea, thought by thought, issue by issue. Maybe start by thinking about the idea of shared national service. It would give us all a common experience and a common commitment to something larger than ourselves, like our country.
In any event, that’s what I’m thinking of doing this summer because I refuse to accept that “what is” is the best we can do. Acceptance and aspiration can lead us out of what is and into a more accepting and unified nation.
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