As I scroll through my social media feeds on a day when the election results are in I feel a roller coaster of emotions. I see great sadness and anger countered by elation and hope. What a divide! I feel a physical heaviness on my chest to see the gnarly cut that so many friends and acquaintances bare today and it also bothers me to read some of the voter shaming that has ensued. I tend to stay away from engaging in political debates on social media because I don’t think it ever ends well. The likelihood of changing someone’s viewpoint on a Facebook post is slim, but the likelihood of turning off a friend is high. It’s just not worth it to me. But after reading some harsh words today I felt compelled to write the post: What I’ve Learned About Tolerance.
I’m a Midwestern girl raised by proud conservative parents. Once I become old enough to understand politics I followed elections with fervor. I took on my parent’s view points as my own because I didn’t have any outside influences as compelling as them. I would get into heated debates with my friends if they disagreed with my views to the point that I began to look at them differently and I questioned their judgement. I never tried to understand why they may feel differently, I simply had tunnel vision on my political views and that was that.
And then I grew up
After getting married my husband and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and we were in for quite a change! We went from a predominantly conservative, white upper middle class community to being thrust into so much diversity that it was a daily education on learning new ways of life. It was eye opening and truly a time of real personal growth for me. I watched and listened to people from different backgrounds and I came to an understanding of why people have different perspectives.
And boy, was I in for a rude awakening in the 2008 election between Barack Obama and Jon McCain. Talk about standing all alone on an island when it comes to political water cooler talk in the office! Although my social views were more liberal I leaned conservative in other aspects that I valued. As I attempted to stand my ground with my proud liberal friends and co-workers who were baffled by my differing opinion, I realized they were probably looking at me a bit differently once they learned my views. And they were undoubtedly questioning my judgement just as I had done in the past.
Showing Grace in Tolerance
When Obama won I wasn’t upset. I recognized the gravity in the moment and I understood that the country wanted change and he represented that. I shed hopeful tears while watching a history making event take place and I immediately prayed for him and rooted for him to be that game changer. After all, rooting for him to fail so that I could say I told you so was rooting for America to fail and why on earth would I want that? And I certainly never uttered a single hateful thing on Facebook about other people’s choices or questioned their intelligence.
What I took away from my time in California was a great deal of tolerance and acceptance. I learned to talk less and listen more. I learned to have empathy for people with different backgrounds than me and made an effort to understand why they feel the way they do. Tolerating other ways of thinking and attempting to learn from it shows real grace and quit frankly, it feels a lot better than condemning and feeling hatred for those that feel differently than you.
As we embark on a new change for our country I cross my fingers and hope that our next president will rise to the challenge and defy the fearful expectations (including my own) and become a great president. As Hillary Clinton said in her dignified and heartfelt concession speech today; “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.” #ImWithHer on that. I hope that those who are jubilant at the outcome handle it with grace and humility, and I hope those with broken hearts begin to heal soon. Whether you are posting mournful or celebratory messages today on your social media pages, speak out with dignity and poise. Consider how your words effect people. Tolerance and understanding will go a long way to heal this nation and it starts with us.