People Are Hard to Hate Up Close

Meditations in MotionI once knew a man (he shall remain nameless) who was racially prejudiced. He lived his entire adult life in a town whose population contained not one single person of color.

This man and his wife went to church regularly, were active in their community, raised their children, paid taxes, and took care of their neighbor, an elderly widow, by mowing her lawn, shoveling her snow, and tending her garden.

When the widow died, a young family, a husband and wife (let’s call them Joe and Mary), with two small children, moved into her house. The wife was African-American.

Surprisingly, the two families became friends, often visiting each other and enjoying meals together. The prejudiced man and his wife sometimes babysat the two small children, who regarded them almost like another set of grandparents. They bought the children little presents and spoiled them, just like all grandparents do.

Both couples read a lot, followed the news closely, and traveled the globe, so their opinions were generally well-informed (except for the obvious one).

They often had lively, spirited discussions about topics that matter – politics, religion, journalism, education – and didn’t usually see eye-to-eye, but the debates were always respectful and the friendship was strengthened, not weakened by the exchanges.

One day, I was talking to the man about politics when he made the shocking statement: “Black people aren’t smart enough to govern themselves.

My jaw dropped.

Are you telling me that Mary isn’t smart enough to govern herself?

Well, no…Mary is certainly smart enough. She is smart enough to be president of the United States.

Hmmm…” It’s hard to hate people close up.

Meditations in MotionFast-forward three decades.

It’s only February and already my eyes hurt from rolling them at news stories on television and online. We have nine more months of this bickering and pettiness to look forward to.

We are already firmly ensconced in our respective bunkers – left or right – lobbing verbal hand grenades at one another, coming out only reluctantly for gatherings with family and friends who may include members of the opposite political party before scuttling back to the safety of our fortifications.

Here is the thing: it’s hard to hate people once you actually get to know them, as the man in my story found out. People are much easier to hate from a distance. As a group.

If I am tempted to think “Democrats are elitists“, I remember my late mother-in-law, a Democrat who volunteered at the polls each year. She worked as a nurse’s aide, certainly not an easy vocation, and yet found time to be a collector of lonely people who depended on her for assistance and companionship. She was no elitist.

If I might think “Republicans are jerks”, I recall my sister-in-law, a staunch Republican, who is not a jerk. She is one of the kindest, friendliest people I know, mentoring engaged couples at her church before they marry and going the extra mile to help her teen-aged grandson.

Do we trust our real-life experiences or the rhetoric from politicians and their online minions who have a vested interest in keeping us angry at each other?

Think about someone you know personally who belongs to the opposite political party. Yes, think about them right now. Take your time, I’ll wait.

Chances are they are not the racist, misogynist, insufferably politically correct, wacko, zealous, extremist, radical, obstructionist, loser, lunatic morons they are made out to be on social media.

While we all have the right to feel anger at times, holding on to unrelenting anger toward those on the other side of the political divide is unproductive and harmful.

If we hold anger inside, eventually we feel depleted and exhausted. If we constantly express anger, we become irrelevant in the discussion needed to make connections and create change.

For us to maintain our anger at members of the opposite camp, we must go through an insidious process called dehumanization.

When we see people with different views as someone less than human, we eventually believe they do not deserve basic human rights and protections.

Seeing “the enemy” as less than human allows us to keep our hate alive.

Meditations in MotionWhen we call people names: “Crazy Joe” Biden, or “Cartoon Villain” Kellyanne Conway, it helps to strip their humanity away.

If you are upset when you see a picture of a person wearing a KKK hood with a MAGA hat captioned “Evil doesn’t die, it reinvents itself“, you better also be upset when Tomi Lahren says “Democrats hate America“.

No Republican I know condones evil and no Democrat I know hates America.

Attributing these characteristics to those on the left or the right may give us the momentary thrill of self-righteous indignation, but it deepens the divide, fuels our anger, and keeps meaningful conversations from occurring.

What are we to do?

First, we must absolutely refuse to propagate dehumanizing messages on social media #NotOnMyFeed. Many of these divisive memes are churned out by Russian trolls aiming to weaken and destabilize democracies. Let’s not give them traction.

Second, we must be willing to engage people with different views. Thoughtful, respectful discussion is good; name-calling is not.

The current echo chambers are fueled by having a dialog only with people who will reinforce our own preconceived outlook.

Hearing other points of view takes courage.

Finally, we need to look for connections. We have more in common with people of different faiths, political views, ethnicities, and professions than we have differences. Humans are hard-wired for community.

When talking to someone of a different political persuasion, the first thing we must do is to listen. I mean really listen without formulating counter-arguments in our mind while the other person is speaking.

Then try to find points of agreement. There may not be many, but start small and build.

Any progress at all has to be better than rolling my eyes for nine more months.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

87 comments

  1. Great thoughts and a good plan of action, Laurie!
    In Florida, we had a really great 83-year old neighbour. He used to be the CEO of a company and was intelligent, kind and generous. However, his political views were diametrically opposed to ours.
    I have to admit that I decided not to venture any deeper into the topic, as I wasn’t expecting him to change his mind. In hindsight – and after reading your post – I should have asked more questions and listened to his thoughts, rather than steer the conversation away from politics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having discussions with someone of the opposite political viewpoints can certainly be uncomfortable and I have done my share of steering away from those conversations too, but I am going to begin practicing patience and grace by NOT avoiding them in the future. We need to begin talking to each other!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we’re both on the same wavelength this week with our posts. Yes, it is hard to hate up close. All the technology and gadgetry doesn’t help the matter – it just gives us a safe place to hide when we’re throwing hand grenades. Thought provoking post.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I was thinking the same thing when I read your post his morning, Bev. Great minds…! πŸ™‚ You would think technology would bring us closer, but it really doesn’t. Thank you!

      Like

  3. Laurie, your exercise didn’t work for me. I thought of a business contact, about my age, clearly a Trump Republican. I thought about some nice conversations we had about art and animals, but then I couldn’t get past his frequent and hurtful comments about his wife and women in general. It overshadowed anything good. I don’t think I’d be able to give your racist friend a pass. When I think about the person, the hate they hold trumps the love. And I can’t separate acceptance of Trump from the acceptance of his statements and actions. I see that this line in the sand makes me part of the problem, but people reap what they sow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, Jeff, the racist was my dad. I argued with him until I was blue in the face and couldn’t change his mind, but I did love him and knew he was a good man with many stellar qualities. I think it was ignorance more than hate that drove his prejudice. My love for him trumped everything else.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fortunately, I haven’t had many experiences where I disagreed to my core beliefs with a friend or relative. The only time I recall was when a friend was planning to be unfaithful to his wife. My response ruined the friendship. I’m not sure how I would handle it if I had an opportunity for a redo. Some things I just can’t get beyond.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, a thousand times, yes! Thank you for this encouragement to become unified in spirit and to stay human. The past 3 years have been hard in many ways, and we all need healing. One person at a time, we can make a difference in the narrative of our country.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I so appreciate your optimistic stance here, Laurie, and I’m not one that wishes in any way to add fuel to the fire when it comes to people’s opinions, but there certainly are those on both sides of the aisle who won’t take the first step in getting to know someone of opposing views. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long nine months of eye-rolling. And yes, it’s hard to hate anyone when you take the time to get to know them up front and personally.
    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wise words! Yes, if we really listen to people and avoid buying into these generalisations it makes a big difference. Even when we have different views we can still treat people with respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was wondering what the title meant. Very interesting.
    My opinions are based on personal experience, so I cannot honestly say that I love everyone I know.
    However, you are absolutely right by saying that there are good and bad people on each side.
    LISTENING is of utmost importance. I find that if I have a conversation with someone “from the opposite camp,” we usually agree on the important stuff. It’s when people refuse to listen when we build barriers around one another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t love everyone I know. Not by a long shot. Most people I know are irritating at best! πŸ™‚ You are right, Sam – it’s when we build impenetrable barricades that we get into trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very well written. You did a great job staying unbiased and neutral in your explanation. We can and should all get along despite political opinions. They should not be the undoing of civil behavior. #Senisal

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Too much bickering for sure. Maybe we should do away with the parties, I mean aren’t we supposed to be one nation united? The reps and dems will always hate each other. Politics and religion, two subjects people find it hard to talk about and agree on.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This was very insightful Laurie. I don’t have TV, having canceled my cable a decade ago. I also cancelled the newspaper subscription after my mom died. So, I hear the news on the AM all-news station instead and follow news sites on social media. I must say my eyes are barely open when I am already irritated about something I heard on the news. This period leading up to the election will be more and more venomous as time goes on. I can’t vote, so I don’t participate in any discussions, but I dislike how politics has ripped apart this country. That’s all I’ll say, but I also do not like generalizations – I’ve had generalizations made about me by people who know nothing about me – people open their mouth and insert their foot before engaging their brain too often in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, Linda. When we make generalizations about people, it makes them easier to hate. It’s getting so that I don’t know which news outlets are trustworthy. I don’t want to read stories that aren’t true or even slanted in a certain direction. Ugh! It’s going to be a tough 9 months.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, people are quick to generalize. Forty years ago I started working at a law firm – it was an old and very staid law firm where we addressed the attorneys, law clerks and even the runner as “Mr.” and they addressed us as “Mrs.” or “Miss” (never Ms.). Anyway, very stuffy and I decided to get into this field, thinking I had my college degree and had secretarial experience (18 months at an ad agency) … the law firm was in the same building as the ad agency. Ad people are a little out there, especially the Creative Department artists and copywriters who had their own dress code, set of standards, vocabulary (mostly swearing) and were quirky, not to mention a lot of long lunches drinking with vendors. I am sure the elevator behavior was questionable to others. So I interviewed at this old and stuffy firm (with a strict no-pants dress code for women and attorneys must be in a three-piece suit at all times, even running to the convenience store downstairs) and the administrative partner said in the interview with me “well I dunno – you’ve worked at Y&R and the Creative Department on top of it. I see ‘those people’ on the elevator.” I said “it does not mean I act/acted like them.” So he decided to take a chance on me since saying “‘maybe I was right and I was not one of them.” Every year on February 11th I marched down to his office and announced it was my anniversary – one more year. Last week I sent him a card saying I was 40 years in this business. I no longer worked there since the early 90s – neither did he as he had a massive heart attack and went into private practice as he felt it was less stressful. Never. Generalize. Ever.

        I hate turning on the news – all the carping and twisting of words – it is very very ugly out there and people stand behind their profile pictures and seem to think they can say whatever they want since it does not show their name/picture most of the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think we all were so much more formal 40 years ago. I know when I first started teaching there was a strict dress code for teachers. Women were required to wear a skirt or dress and “hose”.

        Sounds like you really had to do some convincing to get your job. I guess after 40 years, the man who hired you must have had his fears allayed. Lesson learned – never generalize.

        Bill is watching the news now as I type this. I am trying to ignore it and focus on blogging instead.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The news can be depressing – even if you try not to let it be so. Well, I will see if he returns my message or not. I did include my e-mail address so he did not have to waste a stamp. Generalities are never good when you make them about people as it is like you are not trying to take the time to learn what makes that person tick.

        Dress codes were strict back in the day and our teachers always were dressed for success but I see interviews with teachers sometimes and realize that is not the case anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such a needed conversation, Laurie. We are in dreadful lack of kindness, graciousness, and civility these days. It’s infiltrated the church as so many have begun to define themselves by political party and not their faith in Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for going there today, friend. May our first and only eternal allegiance to to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just this morning “snoozed” a high school friend on FB who posted hate on her page. To see it infiltrate the church is so painful and downright scary. We are worshipping human idols.

      Like

    • This type of encouragement is so needed today in the here and now. I read an article the other day about choosing to be a radical middle, which essentially meant, I’m for what God wants. Myself, I’m not about political parties but for people. We are all loved by the Almighty God and we have to start loving others better. This means that we must really learn what the apostle Paul meant when he said “I’ve learned to be all things to all men” that’s so key, especially in today’s society. Staying true to loving God and loving others which are the 2 greatest commandments. Thank you for standing up for this topic, I think it is fantastic πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  12. love this. One of my best friends is on the other side of the aisle from me and he has a saying that most people agree on 95% of politics – its the other 5% that we let divide us. I think the number is a bit higher but I like the idea #anythinggoes

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I can honestly say I don’t understand your system of elections Laurie but I do get the meaning in your post and applaud you for sharing your thoughts in such a generous way. There is far too much hate going on in the world these days but only if we allow it. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love what you present in this post. I have already begun the eye-rolling and it’s giving me a headache. How simple would it be to really get to know a person? Instead of walking into a situation with preconceived thoughts give the other person a chance. I know the next nine months could be horrible or not so bad depending on how we approach the divisiveness that already exists. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A great post. Thank you. It is so true for us here in Australia as well. In fact parts of me are ashamed of the banter and nonsense I read and hear from adults about many things. We are governed by a party which is not one I would vote for. I admit that. BUT, I also do not feel the opposition has made their mark either. I do know that during the worst of the Australian Bushfires I got angry on twitter about the lack of leadership (our prime minister took himself to Hawaii to have a holiday) that I got myself overly stressed. Sigh. Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week is 7/51 T: Telling Self-Care Stories #1. 17.2.2020. Hope to see you there AND the next 10 prompts are on the home page now! Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. There’s no room in this world for the racist. There’s only room for love. Jesus’ example holds no racism. Yet, this has been a part of culture since Genesis. People think it’s a new thing, but it’s really not. It’s a sinful, old thing. We are ALL created in the Image of God. It must grieve His heart to see us hating on each other because of something so insignificant as skin color.

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Laurie, and thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ecclesiastes 8:9 All of this I have seen, and I applied my heart to every work that has been done under the sun, during the time that man has dominated man to his harm. A wiseman once said this. He saw the devastation that results from human rule. I have no political views. Am politically neutral and men and women who have had the same view throughout history have been killed for their stands. Enter 1940’s Germany. Sad indeed. Either divided or hated for your views.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thankfully I don’t see much if any of this political vitriol in my social media feeds. When I do, I ask questions first for clarification then choose to further engage or not. I have no dog in this fight because my hope is not in the President. My hope is in Jesus, my source for everything so when all is said and done, I really don’t care who sits in the White House because God is in control and he has the final say. I’m shocked and confused by the Christian response to our current President and to this entire political race. I’m wondering if many of us read our Bibles because if we do, we wouldn’t waste our time participating in all of the online political madness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most of the people I follow on Twitter are runners. They are a very positive bunch of people. No conflicts there. It’s on FB, where I know most of the people on my feed that I see the political stuff. Ugh! We should not make idols of men. Only God is worthy of our worship. I agree with you, Yvonne.

      Like

  19. This would make a wonderful newspaper editorial. Except I am not sure anyone reads newspapers much any more. But your message needs to be shared. People are hard to hate up close. We all have flaws, we are all human, for heaven sake.
    It is going to be a terribly long, ugly campaign year. Maybe I will get a lot of reading in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I thought about sending it into a newspaper, but I think newspapers thrive on conflict, just like the rest of the media. I think I will get more reading in also this year! πŸ™‚

      Like

  20. […] People Are Hard to Hate Up Close. “Attributing these characteristics to those on the left or the right may give us the momentary thrill of self-righteous indignation, but it deepens the divide, fuels our anger, and keeps meaningful conversations from occurring.” […]

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  21. As you can see, I have been stockpiling your posts for a few weeks due to lack of time and am just now catching up with them. As always, your take on our current version of the human predicament is inspiring, affirming, and well worth reading. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I’m a little jealous about that πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear from you, Jan. I get it – when I taught, I sometimes felt like I didn’t have time to breathe! I am sure you COULD say it better, or at least from a different perspective.

      Like

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