AND Find the Teachable Moment

October 23rd, 2016

As we near the end of a very long election cycle in this country, I am struck by the patterns that play out on a large and small scale, seeming to signal warnings for us to heed. One such observation comes from the third and last debate this past week. It is about our value for learning from those who think differently AND our willingness to stop seeking validation that we are right over discovering whether there is a better way.

We appear to be reinforcing polarized listening patterns in our government, workplaces, personal relationships, and wider society. AND I would submit that we do so because we are engaging them in our individual lives, while our technology feeds the bias. What I mean by this is we decide what we WANT to see and hear and that is what we listen for and that is what we listen to. So, of course, we find evidence to support what we want to hear, to a greater or lesser extent.

Such bias feeds personal insecurities and fears, as we seek validation that our own views of the world are correct. Our technology supports our biases today, as it tracks our likes and dislikes and feeds us recommendations that reinforce what we like, while not helping us to expand our capacity for new perspectives.

AND unless we are doing the personal inner work to discover how we limit ourselves and diminish others in order to feel better about ourselves, we are blind to the impact of our biases. We miss the opportunity to creatively learn from others, by listening to them. We stop listening for what we might be missing or why another point of view exists. We stop asking what is underneath, or behind, the diverse thinking and emotions expressed by others that might differ from our own.

Our Congress has exhibited polarized thinking and actions. As a result, it has not served to make great decisions that move our country forward and put in place policies that truly serve our highest potential as a nation. We could blame Congress. We could blame the current political candidates, who are constantly labeled as flawed. When we hear that others are labeled as flawed, do we stop to ask how we might be flawed? Or do we use the label to elevate ourselves as better than they are?

It is time to look inward. It is time to look inside ourselves. We all have vulnerabilities and insecurities. If we look them squarely in the eye, we will develop the compassion to treat ourselves and others more gently. We will look for how we can come together over difficult issues. We will not be afraid of radically different views than our own, because we will recognize, as Abraham Lincoln did, that bringing opposing views together creates the space for great insights to emerge, breaking the logjam of stuck, old ideas and beliefs, in order to grow and change.

We could lament this election process or we could use it as a call to action to celebrate our strengths, heal our wounds, and dream ourselves a worthy future of the people we want to be. I choose the latter.

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