I am not one for courting controversy (not any more, at least) and have little interest in posting anything political or contentious online. My writings are, in some measure, influenced by a lesson I learnt in my early 20s – that when people judge you, confirmation bias will drag your past behaviour, comments you made, even unrelated factors, into an unfair and unwavering condemnation. And so it is that I have been content to write about the strength of personal development and offer my contribution to a better world that way.
However, with the Black Lives Matter movement gathering such warranted momentum and support, I kept seeing one comment from those more experienced and educated in the history than me: Silence is compliance. A friend’s post was the final push I needed, and when something appeared on my timeline, I shared it with words of my own. I never thought for a moment that anyone would be so offended by it as one person clearly was.
I had upset him, and he responded from what seemed like quite an angry place. Once the initial surprise at his comment had faded, I was able to engage with him in a way that sought clarification and understanding. I resisted the temptation to persuade or point-score, and felt a deep satisfaction in the ease with which I strove for connection. (Admittedly, my heart did race a few times as I typed my various replies in the ensuing exchange, but those were the lines I knew to delete.) I was left with a deeper appreciation of the pain of others, and a greater clarity of what I’m capable.
That was yesterday. This morning as I wrote this piece, my own words urged me to contact the person privately and see if we could find something to agree on. I had created suffering in another by seeking to support those already suffering. Shifting the suffering is not the answer. Finding common ground is the answer.
I wrote to him, thanking him at the end for the opportunity he had given me to see myself more clearly. He responded with similar gratitude, and in his words we found powerful points of connection: Unity, understanding, and a realisation that choosing any side always excludes somebody.
It impressed me to see just what is possible. In the end we were able to smile and joke with each other, and share more of our stories in the gentle, unguarded conclusion of an exchange which, in its entirety, was only 12 messages long. In such a short time, with hardly any effort, we demonstrated what my work is all about: seeing beyond the surface-level conditioning to the depth and beauty underneath. That is where our common ground lies: in relinquishing our stance, coming together, and seeking to see ourselves at our most beautiful.