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A Crucial Help For Our Divided Nation

It was a very historic week with the election – one in which has revealed a deep divide in our country.

Many are rejoicing. Many are hurting. Many feel numb.

I know and have people that I love in each of the above three camps. You may also. What do we do? How do we walk this out in a good, healthy, even God-honoring manner?

We just might find some answers by looking at a method of conflict resolving known as PLEDGEtalk.

But let me start by asking some questions:

  • What should I say to my very good friend who is a part of the hispanic community who tells me he is terrified over what happens next when our new President takes office come January?
  • What should I say to several people I know who are either involved in the LGBTQ community or friends with those who are, and who also speak of loving God as I do?
  • How do I respond to friends who are exuberant over the results?
  • What should I say to my African American brothers and sisters who themselves have strong and varying opinions to the election results?

Someone else might ask:

  • How do I respond to a co-worker who says to me: “just because your people didn’t get who you wanted in the election, quit acting like little babies and help make our country strong again.”
  • How do I talk to my neighbor tomorrow who I know is excited over Trump winning?
  • What do I say to a friend who says to me: “This is one of the reasons the Liberals lost, violence is their answer when they don’t get their own way.”

Questions.

There are a lot of them these days.

How do these reactionary answers sound from those in Trump’s camp:

  • “Look, you need to get over it. This is how democracy played out this time. It is what it is.” Or…
  • “Sorry you feel the way you do, but there is a right and a wrong in each of these issues – and the right has prevailed.” Or…
  • “I know. Ain’t it great? Finally, right? Or…
  • “We didn’t like the last President – but we sucked it up, now you need to do the same!”

And how do these sound from those in the Clinton camp:

  • “Americans have blundered big time on this one!” Or…
  • “Impeach Trump. He’s not my president!” Or…
  • “I am moving to Canada.”

I hope you hear how poor each of these responses are from both camps. None of them will bring about the healing of our nation. Reactionary responses are never helpful – yet we are all guilty of them whether it was this past week because of the election results, or in everyday communication with those around us.

So I am back to my original question.

How do we respond to those who may have a very different reaction to the outcome of this Presidential election than we do?

How can any of us on either side of the fence communicate with each other in a way that is good, healthy, even God-honoring? And specifically with some of the issues that might divide us the most, how do we answer?

Can I tell you how I think we ought to answer?

I DON’T KNOW.

I don’t know how to respond. Oh I have ideas and thoughts, but I don’t really know exactly what to say. And other than giving trite, pat, or defensive answers, I would venture to say that very few of you know exactly what to say either.

So what do we do?

The first step of the PLEDGEtalk process is to Pause.

I suggest we all need to pause.

In fact one of the best things we could do as a nation right now is to pause. We need to stop what we are doing or saying in response to what has happened and get quiet.

Why?

First, we all need to let our emotions dial down.

Research shows that when our emotions are high, the rational part of our brain shuts down – and we literally can’t think straight. Right now, there are a lot of people – dare I say even most of us to some degree – that aren’t thinking straight. Rioting and violence are evidence of this. So are defensive comments. We aren’t thinking clearly as a nation. We need to pause what we are doing and saying to give time for our emotions to dial down so the rational part of our brain can come back online.

Second, we need to shift our focus.

I like what President Obama said in his response, that “we are not Democrats first, we are not Republicans first, we are Americans first–and all on the same team.” Obama and Donald Trump have very significant different political views. And yet President Obama said we are all on the same team. Why did he say that? What is he doing? He is seeking to shift the focus of each of us who live in this nation. Living in America is not about me; it is not about you. It is about all of us together who are “…ONE NATION, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Our focus must shift so that each of us might regard one another as more important than ourselves; so that we might each put the good of our nation above our own specific interests. That’s a very tall order, but we must begin somewhere and with something other than violence and defensive comments from either side.

The third reason we need to pause as a nation is to prepare us to speak and listen well to one another.

This is the second step of the PLEDGEtalk process and applicable so that we might actually learn how to become and live out the idea of one nation under God that is indivisible.

We must humble ourselves and be willing to admit that none of us sees the whole picture of any matter that divides us. And then, we must sit back and listen–really listen–to understand each other’s perspective. There is story, and history, and reason why each person believes the way they do.

In the same way we must learn to listen well to each other as friends and family, we must learn to do so as a nation. Only then will we gain the necessary understanding to know more clearly how to communicate in a good, healthy, and God-honoring way to each other. And might I add, only when we have paused and quieted our souls long enough, will we be in a position to listen and actually hear from our God, whom we are all under as one nation.

So to everyone in our nation I say, can we have some time of silence, please? Can we all collectively pause? Will you refrain from reactivity, or violence of any kind in action or words?

And will you join me, in taking some time to let our emotions dial down, to shift our focus to give greater consideration to our brothers and sisters, and finally to prepare our hearts to really listen – so that we might begin to understand each other on a deeper level than perhaps ever before, and learn how to become that indivisible one nation under God?

My challenge to you is this:

After some time of silence, pick one person this next week and show him/her this post. Then ask if they would be willing to share with you why they believe what they believe – in an area that is different than you. What is the reason or story behind what they think? Be careful to keep one thing in mind however: do not respond with your thoughts about theirs – unless they drag it out of you! Instead, just listen. Your goal is to understand them in a new and deeper way. If you say anything, do so only to clarify what you hear them saying. Be intrigued and ask as many questions that you can think of to learn all that you can.

Then, respond to this post, or email me at: Mark@pledgetalk.com and let me know what you learned from the experience.

If you were helped by this article in any way or provoked to deeper thought, would you share this with others?

I welcome your thoughts and ideas below. Thank you for reflecting on what I have written.

Click here to learn more and download the entire PLEDGEtalk process of conflict resolution.