In 2021 I am a white, middle-aged, doctor’s wife living an hour outside Atlanta, but I spent the first part of my life in rural Alabama. I had many colorful experiences growing up, including serving beer at a cockfight during an elementary school slumber party in a doublewide trailer.
I’ve walked through extended family struggles with domestic violence, suicide attempts, death from AIDS, drunk driving, adultery, addiction, abortion, transgenderism, and teen pregnancy (Half of that before I was old enough to drive a car).
I am a politically Independent, cradle-to-grave pro-life voter in a deeply red part of the country.
I am a Jesus follower who does not believe God needs a politician to save anything.
I am a member of (and live adjacent to) a Country Club and spend hours each week advocating for my undereducated and economically disadvantaged neighbors who live less than a block away.
My inner circle includes black people, white people, doctors, business owners, and struggling single mothers.
I have simultaneously served as a foster parent, deeply entrenched in lives of addiction and poverty, and a private school parent-teacher organization president.
You may have followed me on social media for years and not know these things. I share all this as a reminder that most human beings are far more multi-dimensional than your initial assessment or their online persona.
I also offer this backstory today as a context for the deep concern I have, in my everyday life, for all kinds of people. And while most of us are still processing the many lessons of this period in history, I realized something today that the last 10 months have solidified for me.
My friends from all walks of life do not feel heard. This is frustrating and exhausting. You don’t have to look much further than the toddler having a tantrum to see where that leads.
When my children were younger I frequently had to remind them what a difference their tone made in my ability to really hear what they had to say. Now that they are teenagers, we still sometimes have these talks. Whininess, entitlement, blind spots, hard truths, hunger, exhaustion, hypocrisy--real or perceived--all impact our ability to listen with understanding, as opposed to wanting to teach each other a lesson.
As adults that share a society, we cannot continue to just step over the people having tantrums and go about our business. We have to pause and help each other find our words.
Adults know they cannot win every time--and I don’t think most people expect to, as long as they feel there are people in leadership listening and working towards a common good. Unfortunately, it is no longer clear what COMMON good looks like.
When everything becomes win or lose, all of life feels like war. Conversation shuts down because it doesn’t feel productive. So, frustrated people march, yell, protest and then retreat to their echo chambers where they are fired up and refueled for the next big fight--but nothing happens, except increased divisiveness.
We cannot move forward in this cycle of fearing what is different. We have to humble ourselves and start trying to listen to each other again...not through shouts, but through honest sharing of our fear and need. Less they and more we.
I am praying and processing what this looks like in my own sphere of influence. How do we enter into mutually respectful conversations (during a Pandemic) with friends, family, and neighbors where defensiveness is soothed by loving and productive curiosity? How do we start to trust each other again?
I believe we are seeing the fruit of a lot of things that don’t work: depersonalizing people, swiftly judging and putting labels on others, and making everything a fight.
We must get our conversations off of screens and back in real life, where humanity is more recognizable and the tone can be heard in the context of relationships.
It will be painful, slow, and cost all of us something...but the profit will be progress, peace, and a true living out of our faith as we love one another in sacrificial and meaningful ways.