5 Ways to Overcome Political Division

Overcome Political Division

Overcome Political Division
Wow!  I’ve never seen an election be this emotional and stir up this much stuff for people.  Even in sessions today, a week after the results came in, I’ve had several clients bring up the election in our work together.  A couple of them were especially worried about seeing family at Thanksgiving, when they had such intense, opposite views and emotions around it all.

As someone said to me today, “What do you do when the people you love and typically respect, and who taught you much of what you know about love and respect, have strong beliefs you can’t respect?”

It’s not just my clients who are dealing with this, either.  I have three children – one’s Asian, one’s black, one’s white.  I have friends and loved ones who are gay, bisexual and transgender.  The thought of their not being safe, having civil rights denied to them, being harassed (or worse), or being discriminated against has kept me up at night.

The divide in our society has never seemed greater.

My work is centered around helping people to heal from the past, to be the leaders in the world that they are meant to be, and to live in greater and greater possibilities so that they can create the lives and businesses that they want.  I have some thoughts to share.  I don’t have all the answers.  We’re going to have to make our way through this and learn as we go, a step at a time.

[Note:  Because of past traumas, some people are having PTSD reactions related to this election and the President-Elect.  If you are, please get help from someone qualified.  Your feelings and experiences are real.]


Here are some ways to get started.

Look at ourselves first.

It’s easy for us to go to a victim-abuser-rescuer mentality.  We look around and see the villains (the other side) and we wait for a rescuer (our preferred candidate).  This is a time for self-empowerment and accountability.

Self-empowerment starts when we look at ourselves with full honesty.  Where are we covering up the imbalances in our own lives?  What are our fears?  Our commitments?

Where are we saying one thing (like, that love, connection and accountability are important to us), yet DOING or SHOWING something else?

All the turmoil around us is going to stir up unresolved issues and emotions we have.  That’s part of its gift – crappy though it can feel!  It’s important to honor this by honoring our feelings and our fears, while also knowing that there’s more.  There’s also love, joy, connection and dedication.

Also look at what you’re feeding yourself and the energy of it.  Are you getting caught up in the rhetoric, the hype and the fear?  Are you reading multiple sources, fact-checking and trying to understand another point of view?

Listen next.

We’ve been instructed by religious and thought leaders to try first to understand the other person, THEN to have them understand us.  This isn’t easy!  At first, it might feel impossible.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook from people from the full spectrum of political views that say something like, “Why do I need to listen to them?  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  They’re just _________ (sore losers, racists, liberals, rednecks, etc.).”

Putting labels on anyone reduces their humanity.  It feeds the “us versus them” mentality, making our divisions more entrenched.  And it’s a sign that we’re taking what the other person is saying personally.

What’s important is not WHO we voted for, but WHY we voted for them.

Can you hear the fears and concerns of the “other side”?  What’s led them to hold the views that they do?  What have their experiences been?  What are their worries for the future?  What keeps them up at night?

No one is born with a certain political view.  What’s shaping theirs?

It’s time to stop fighting AGAINST what we don’t like, and to start standing up FOR what’s important to us.

This isn’t the time to fight AGAINST.  Not against misogyny, racism, economic imbalance or what we fear.  That only fuels the fires.  Remember MLK’s famous quote that hate can’t drive away hate.  Prejudice can’t get rid of prejudice.  Anger can’t combat anger.

Fighting comes from a place of fear and reaction, letting what we’re against lead the way.  It creates (or perpetuates) the “us versus them” dynamics and keeps us all in struggle and conflict.

This is the time to STAND UP FOR.  To stand up for inclusion, equality, fair economic practices, transparency in government, and accountability.  Standing up for what we value comes from love and commitment.  It’s creative, empowering and invites others in.

As Mother Teresa said, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

SA_Twitter_IconTweet: Our country needs the ingenuity, originality and creativity of every single one of us if we are to make it through this.  

Standing up for our values isn’t passive and it isn’t about being nice or pleasing others.  Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up for the rights of the oppressed.  The Sioux of Standing Rock are standing up for the sanctity of nature and their rights to their land.  They weren’t / aren’t being rude or aggressive.  They are saying “no”.

Here’s a video with recommendations on how to intervene if you witness acts of racism.  They are also applicable to other types of harassment and bullying.  There are also many online resources and support networks.

Standing up and showing up go hand-in-hand.  We have to show up in ways that exemplify what we’re standing up for.  If Gandhi, while standing up for fair treatment and freedom for India, had shown up as angry and oppressive, there would have been a fundamental dissonance that would have undermined his effectiveness.

A key question for each of us is: What am I standing up for, and how am I showing up as I do it?

This is a time for us to each be leaders.  We can’t expect one person at the head of a cumbersome bureaucracy, someone who also has their own interests and agendas, to solve the problems of all 325 million of us.

We can’t wait around for someone else to do what needs to be done.  We need to start from where we are and do what’s in front of us to do.  Donate, volunteer, call, march, share – while always keeping in mind how we’re showing up.

This is a time of great upheaval, which means that it’s also a time of great opportunity.  What are we going to create from all of this?

And this brings me to the point that’s at the bottom of all of this: It’s time to show up as who you are.

The world is desperate for more love and kindness, and that has to start with how we treat ourselves.  Trying to fit into a mold of what we believe we should be is a form of self-violence.  Our country needs the ingenuity, originality and creativity of every single one of us if we are to make it through this.

The Founding Fathers and Mothers weren’t saints, and there were a TON of things that they didn’t agree on. They listened, they debated, they argued and they compromised.  And they showed up.  Each person contributing their point of view, their ideas.  And from it all came a system and documents that have served us well.

Now it’s our turn.  It’s time for us to show up.

Comments 6

  1. Thanks, Sara, thoughtful and helpful to hear your voice. My women’s group touched on many of these thought this eve.
    I feel I will be called upon to stand up for my sisters and brothers for many reasons. We all will, and we can’t wait for the next guy to do it.

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      Hi, Deb –

      I’ve been so inspired by the stories I’m reading of people who’re standing up in really creative, courageous ways. My prayer is that we all share our voices with love, strength and compassion, especially in standing up for those who don’t feel like they can stand up for themselves.

      Yes, it’s up to each of us. And we can do this.

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      Thank you, Muhamet. And thank you for sharing your voice here. Your voice is dear to me.


  2. Well said. I would add one point: When you focus on what you are FOR, you may find that the chasm between the “sides” isn’t as wide as you thought it was and that there are many fundamentals on which you agree. Often the disagreement is over HOW to accomplish them more than WHAT to accomplish.

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      Yes, focusing on what we want to create, rather than on what we’re upset about, can help us find common ground.

      I was just listening to a book called Crucial Conversations. The author was saying that often we agree with someone on 95% of what’s being discussed, yet we focus on 5% and do so with great vehemence. Focusing on the 95% – and implementing THAT – gets us a very long way. And then, of course, approaching the 5% with compassion and openness, so that we actually hear each other, makes all the difference.

      Thanks for contributing to the conversation, Mom. Love you.

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