After watching the most recent debates on television, I am so saddened by the state of our country, and really, by the state of the world as a whole. We are all so divided, with such strong feelings toward opposing positions and viewpoints, that it seems as though we are living in a world that is united by hate and anger. Believe it or not, I have heard of multi-year friendships ending, all due to both parties holding opposing political views— and what a horrible shame that is!
In reflecting upon this, I believe that the true breakdown came about in the 1960s, when we had the anti-religion, anti-war, anti-establishment movement. This movement was unified in what they did not like— as opposed to what they did like, they focused on the problem—instead of a possible solution, and they wanted peace, and the end of war— yet, did not offer a plan on how to get there.
Up until the ’60s, we had religion, which offered a common bond around God and family values— which is all well and good— however, what religion struggled to offer was a place for those who did not feel connected to said religion. Instead of us collectively finding a solution to this, we mistakenly unified around the problem, and it seems that ever since then, this has been a recurring theme.
Personally, I find it much easier for me to identify what I do not like, than what I do like, and I so often find myself fixating on the problem, rather than getting proactive and focusing on the solution.
This week what I have been asking myself again and again is: What is the solution!?
I believe that the solution begins with listening— both to ourselves and others, and being willing to listen and engage in meaningful discussion and discourse. If both parties are willing to listen, and to try to understand where the other person is coming from, there is no need for either party to get defensive, and certainly no need to attack. In the end, both sides benefit from this, as healthy communication leads to growth, and a greater sense of understanding for everyone.
In Judaism specifically, I have witnessed so many people go astray because they did not feel a part of. Both through their actions and their words, they are openly telling us the problem— the issue is, we are not offering them a solution. The solution is right there in front of us though: it is finding a common goal to work on together, and it is ensuring a sense of safety and community for one another. If we are pushing religion on people, how are we making it relatable? Is it not better to show each other the beauty, the fun, the exciting part of it all? Thus, if politics is the issue, then let us look at the problems we wish to solve, and instead of blaming the other party, let us be part of the solution, and let us show the beauty that exists in our personal view and perspective.
I am reminded of a story of a rabbi who witnessed some of his congregants throwing stones at the cars that were driving by on the Shabbos and “desecrating the holy day” as they drove by. The Rabbi got up, and yelled at his congregants, “How dare you meet desecration with desecration— these are God’s children just the way you are— if you want them to see your point of view, invite them to a Shabbat meal and show them the beauty within the home.” Showing can be so much more effective than simply telling; if we wish for others to see our point of view, instead of forcing it upon them, we should seek to be the example that we wish others to be.
How do you refrain from being part of the problem? And even more so, how do you focus on the solution, especially when your mind is so quick to fixate on the problem at hand?
This week, remind yourself that we are all seeking the same thing: safety and connection. Let’s show others the beauty of our solutions, let’s stop unifying based on the negative, and let’s start unifying on all of the positives we possess, as well as the solutions we can provide that serve to better all of mankind.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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