I'm absolutely not, in any shape, form or fashion, a Trump fan. Never have been. Adding to that, I give major side-eye to anyone who is, including the evangelicals who claim he is doing "the Lord's work". Shoot, you can walk on over to Isaiah 1:17(NKJV) and read, "Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow" and then line that up with Matthew 12:33 ("a tree is known by its fruit") and see that him doing the kind of work that God would be proud of is super suspect (to put it mildly). But when someone recently asked me about what I personally think is the worst thing that Trump has done to this country—so far, anyway—although the list is LONG, I chose to mention something that I feel is very underrated—"Trump has made a lot of Americans more insecure, unbelievably hypersensitive, extremely narcissistic and, well, bullies."
If you've even spent a day trying to stomach all of the president's "Trump yells" (I call his tweets that because about 90-95 percent of them end up with exclamation points), you'll see that he is quite the tyrant. So long as someone agrees with him, it's all good. Oh, but as soon as someone doesn't? Well, he pulls stunts like the title of this article—"White House to Federal Agencies: Cancel New York Times and Washington Post Subscriptions". If you don't agree with, like or condone what he has to say, you should be silenced. Tell me that's not the same energy that you see on social media, at your place of employment, and perhaps even across from your own dinner table on a regular basis. If you agree with me, cool. If you don't, STFU.
This one article isn't going to totally change our climate. I know that. But when I recently read that the hip-hop artist Nas has grown weary of how much we refer to Illmatic as being his best work, I thought about one of my own personal faves that isn't featured on that classic project. The song is "One Mic".
In response to a culture that seems to be getting more infected with the combo of fear and ego by the day, I just want to take a moment to use my one voice to say 1) you have the right to have the views that you do and 2) you can do that while still respecting the views of others, even though others may not be doing it in return. Here's how.
Implement the Golden Rule
One of my first writing gigs gave me the opportunity to interview one of the most real and pleasant artists I've met to this day—Amel Larrieux. One of the things that we talked about is although she considered herself to be far more spiritual than religious, a biblical principle that she did make a point to instill into her children was the Golden Rule—"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Although it's phrased a bit differently, the basic principle is found in Matthew 7:12). She said it is one of the best ways for all of us to be more loving and tolerant. Amen.
I remember once hearing that the way we treat others, it tends to speak volumes about how we feel about ourselves. That said, ain't it a trip how folks will profess their views and feelings on something and then, once you say something contrary, not only are you wrong, but some people will cuss you out, tell you how much of a hater that you are, and then, they will try and intimidate you into not sharing your perspective ever again? Oh, but let that same person be treated in the way that they treated you and suddenly, they are a victim.
Some things are a matter of flat-out right or wrong. No doubt about it. But a billion more things are based on opinion and perspective. For those matters, when you make a point to respond in the way that you would want someone to respond to you (hopefully that is a kind, thoughtful and non-threatening manner), it's amazing how much they are willing to hear you out. And when there are less monologues and more dialogues transpiring, it's kind of amazin', how much growth can happen—between both individuals.
Always Keep People’s Personal Paths in Mind
I am the kind of person who is far more interested in the "root" of a person than their actual "tree". What I mean by that is, all of us have paths and experiences that result in who we are today. So, whenever I encounter someone who couldn't be more different than I am when it comes to their views, philosophy or even lifestyle, I like to know what brought them to their particular point and place. I also encourage them to listen to some of what got me to where I am as well.
For instance, I recently had a conversation with someone about marriage and divorce. When I shared some of my views and they immediately told me how wrong and "crazy" I was, I calmly asked, "So, you're basically telling me that the Bible is wrong because that is where I'm pulling my convictions from. And if you are, if you're telling me to concede to you rather than stand on what I believe is wrong, isn't that a form of idolatry? Isn't that placing your over my own values and principles?" It was crickets after that.
It wasn't my job to try and make others see things my way. It didn't need to be their job to make me submit to theirs either. At the same time, we've all heard the saying, "Seek first to understand, then be understood." One of the best and most effective ways to respect someone's path that is unlike your own is to do just that. To not cause "accidents" by always trying to force other folks "into your lane". And yes, y'all, that goes both ways.
Gut Check Your Own Confidence and Security Levels
I'm not on social media. I haven't been for almost a decade now, and while I'll pull a Brandy and "Never Say Never" about not coming back on, I can tell y'all that I am at perfect peace being without it. Although I must say that, back in my Facebook days, it was pretty lit because it was basically a social commentary page. I would post stuff, encourage comments and, one of my rules was that I never pulled comments off—no matter how much I disagreed or even if I was attacked for my own statements. Sometimes things would get so heated that people would get mad, block me and then talk about me on their page. Still, most times, it was hard to get mad because I was kind of like, "I mean, if you are so firm in your beliefs, why are you so threatened by mine?"
All these years later, I still feel that way. Whenever I do get triggered by someone else's perspectives or opinions, the first thing that I try and do is get to the root of why it bothers me so much. More times than not, it's either due to how they presented their perspective, because they are trolling (trolling really is the absolute worst) or, it's because their words challenged me to push past myself and dig deeper—whether I liked it or not.
If you're someone who seems to always be mad when someone thinks or says something that is contrary to how you feel, take a moment to reflect on why it's got you so heated. You might realize that it has very little to do with them and more to do with your own sense of confidence and security levels. Especially when it comes to folks in cyberspace who you don't know and probably will never see. Because really, why should they affect you so profoundly? Unless they've got a point that you weren't prepared to consider and that's got you totally out of your comfort zone. #hmm
Don’t Let the Influence of Fame Make You a Hypocrite. Or a Bully.
Again, because the world is on-10 when it comes to hypersensitivity, I'll leave specific names and particulars out. But over the past few months, I have seen celebrities get caught doing the very thing that they berate others about. They will talk about folks but once they are discussed, now there's a crusade to silence their critics. Or, they will tell others about the kinds of folks they should and should not be friends with based on their friend's political or religious views, but the very moment they are seen with someone who is just like the individuals they preach against, suddenly it's all about empathy. Not only is taking this kind of approach majorly hypocritical, it can also be the trait of a bully.
Why do I say that? In a nutshell, bullies are "a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people". I also say that because of what the traits of a bully consists of—always needing to control and dominate other people; being quick to pop-off on others; being intolerant of the differences of other people; having a poor sense of impulse control, and having a sense of inferiority. This is a bully, y'all. How often do you see this acted out on a daily basis? When people are out here trying to convert folks into believing just like they do or cancel them when they don't, how many bullying tactics are tied into that? Voltaire once said, "If you want to know who controls you, look at who you are not allowed to criticize." Or even think differently than. Folks who try and control others? They are bullies.
The reason why celebrity culture is able to bully so effectively is not really because of their power, but how a lot of us see ourselves; it's because a lot of us "elevate" them when they really should be no more than appreciated. Maybe sometimes admired.
I recently watched a video on hip-hop artist Lecrae's YouTube channel and he brought up a good point. At the end of the day, even after all of the awards and money, "You're still gonna be a person who has death in your family, still gonna have insecurities, still gonna be tired, still gonna be hungry…all I'm trying to say people is work hard and do it out of love." Right.
People are just people. So, don't allow the influence of famous folks to have you out here being a hypocrite or a bully to others. Don't try and push points on people that you are not applying yourself and don't try and intimidate others into feeling like they are smaller or weaker than you are, simply because they are different. To do either of these things, it is the epitome of being disrespectful.
Stop Trying to “Convert” Others. Don't Be Obsessed with "Cancelling" Them Either.
Something that inspired me to pen this piece was a tweet that I saw not too long ago. Someone tweeted out that a celebrity was recently praised for how quickly she lost weight following her pregnancy. The person wasn't congratulating that individual, though. What they immediately said after was when we praise someone for losing weight, what we're actually doing is fat-shaming. They made sure that it was written in all caps too. Brother.
That might sound ridiculous, straight out of the gate, but let that way of thinking get repeated in the press for a month straight and you might be surprised by just how many other folks will end up jumping on the bandwagon. While that tweeter thought that they were making some profound point, really with all of that yelling (because that's basically what writing in all caps conveys) and trying to silence people who disagreed were doing was trying to convert others. Then, if they could make that happen, they would probably say that those who disagreed should be cancelled.
Have you ever looked up the definitions of convert and cancel? To convert is "to turn to another or a particular use or purpose; divert from the original or intended use". To cancel is "to make void; revoke; annul". When a view or perspective is abusive or putting someone in harm's way, that is one thing. But all of us are individuals. This means that all of us are unique. We have different purposes. Should this reality be revoked or annulled simply because it doesn't match another's?
I'm a Bible follower. No doubt about it and I offer no apologies for it. But I also have people I adore who come from totally different religions and opinions. They don't try and convert me. I don't try and cancel them. Where we find common ground, cool. Where we don't? We try and respect that we don't because they are them and I am me. It's beautiful how much peace can be maintained, just with this point alone. This brings me to my final suggestion.
Know What It Truly Means to Agree to Disagree. Then Do It.
We've all heard the phrase "agree to disagree" before, but what actually does it mean? In a nutshell, it's when two opposing parties decide to "cease fire" in the sense of no longer arguing over a particular point. Some people might see this as a passive aggressive approach to matters, but c'mon—we all know there are some things that two people are never going to see eye to eye on. The thing that we need to ask ourselves is, "Why is that such a problem?"
One of my clients? They couldn't be more opposite of me on the political tip. They have actually said some things that I know would get them blocked on social media by some of my friends. But I get that they are the way that they are via their own life journey; that a lot of what they think isn't "bad", it's just not what I'm on. I must admit that we had one political debate that ended up being more draining more than anything because it wasn't like there was a prize at the end of the discussion. After that lil' chat, I said to them, "There are so many other things that we see in similar ways. Let's not let politics get us in that space again."
It's not that I'm afraid of confrontation. Anyone who knows me can certainly vouch for that. It's just that time—and hopefully wisdom—are teaching me that agreeing to disagree oftentimes translates into "don't sweat the small stuff". When you value your peace, your relationships and the time that you will never get back, you begin to accept that one way to honor others, and yourself, is to agree to disagree; to be OK with the reality that not everyone is like you. To have your say, to allow them to do the same, and to sometimes, simply leave it at that.
I'm learning more and more to do that because, well, it's the respectful thing to do, and you can never go wrong with respect—or self-respect. In a world that is getting further away from embracing this fact, never lose sight of it because, as a freelancer by the name of Annie Gottlieb once said, "Respect is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique."
We're not supposed to be clones of one another. Our differences are what helps us all to grow and evolve into better beings.
Give the same kind of respect you want to receive. Watch how much better the quality of your life becomes because of it. That's not a hunch. It's a guarantee.
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