Dialogue: it’s one of the most significant vehicles for sharing life with another person. Humans love to engage in conversation, from the weather and sport, through to personal successes & disappointments. It’s fundamentally how we understand our humanity, a piece of each heart and mind invested in the process of creating the exchange.
The recent Federal election campaign & ensuing anti-climax of the vote result has caused the nature of our collective communication to turn from proactive, life-building dialogue to the more elementary arming and lobbing of thought-bombs across the sociopolitical divide; the chasm growing larger with each trip to the ballot box, again possibly resulting with the uncertainty of a hung parliament. As we anticipate the eventual composition of the group of Australians who will govern us, the general tone of the broader conversation underlines the expanse of our diversity…
“The Greens are godless, childish morons who can’t fund or sustain their ideas.”
“The Libs are only in it for themselves, on the payroll of the big banks.”
“Labor is held to ransom by the Union movement & only know how to spend.”
Such is the typical nature of commentary surrounding an election campaign as battle lines are drawn; nothing new here. However, there has been a new arrival in the land of rhetoric – an infant of thought to be sure, but rapidly growing in stature.
“There’s no place in Australia for ideas such as the ones that XXXXX are putting out there.”
This may sound noble to some, but many Australians share those ideas and are part of the national conversation. If there is no place for an idea held by hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of Australians, what are we to do with such an idea? With such people? Silence them? Exclude them? Make them feel inferior in the shadow of our superior, self-righteous level of thought?
Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.
~ Albert Einstein
If conversation is the vehicle for understanding, and if dialogue requires more than one voice, how are we to expand our understanding – and ultimately our collective peace – through silencing, exclusion, or self-righteousness? Clearly this is a deeply flawed approach. We understand someone only when we allow them to speak, listening to their unique perspective with an open heart & mind, extending them the dignity we afford our own thoughts. After all, the best way to overcome a bad idea is to present a better idea with conviction, empathy, and a clarity of argument to withstand the most vigorous rebuttal.
It is true that some ideas, whilst sounding good to some, are such that would reduce us as a whole – usually ideas that are birthed out of fear. Fear of evil. Fear of others. Fear of the future. Fear of death. Fear of loss. Fear of failure. Oh for leaders who would start building our faith instead of pandering to our fears: faith for the future… faith in each other. We all have fears, so in the absence of external faith-driven leadership, we must lead ourselves in restraining our fears lest they ultimately rule us.
So, what are we to do with our (often-legitimate) fears? Sure, legislation can help to address real issues: societal order, protection, equality, welfare of citizens. But no government can address the fear that grips our hearts & drives our thoughts. There is only one antidote for fear: love.
All human actions are motivated at their deepest level by one of two emotions – fear or love. In truth there are only two emotions – only two words in the language of the soul…
Fear wraps our bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear. Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes. Fear attacks, love amends.
~ Neale Donald Walsch
Rather than looking to our civic leaders alone for social leadership, we must realise that we play a greater role in both contributing to and solving our collective problems than we care to admit. Instead of waiting for politicians to take the lead, let’s start building a tone of conversation that includes everyone – whether we approve of their ideas or not – and that seeks the greater good of all. “Lead upwards”, as it were.
We have the amazing privilege of living in a country in which ideas can be fiercely exchanged without violence. As we are confronted with something that perturbs us, perhaps we could take a moment to ask ourselves:
“What specifically am I concerned about? Is it driven by fear for myself or love for others? Is there a way that I can respond with love so that everyone affected is enlarged & the situation improved for all?”
Then, let’s get about actively creating the world we envision: engaging in a life of love toward others – those with whom we disagree, or even loathe, included – instead of one driven by fear. We must proactively dismiss the seeds of fear that would embed themselves in our thoughts, for thoughts become beliefs, and beliefs become actions.
Imagine what we might create acting from faith, hope, and love! Apathy will see fear imagining the opposite for us, creating our world by default.
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.
~ 1 John 4:18, MSG