But Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” may be a good anthem for the times we are going through right now. Darn it. Oh, I know…but they…but they…but they…I know, truly I do.I’m not saying no one ever does anything “wrong”. I’m certainly not saying no one ever does anything unkind. I’m definitely not saying no one ever does anything hurtful.
I’m saying that our need to draw those lines, to label people as “good” and “bad” and “right” and “wrong” is really not terribly productive and may be more damaging to ourselves than we realize. This anger we feel, that we believe is directed at “the other” is actually a swirling storm going on inside of our own minds. Like the song that replays over and over on a loop, this game of shame and blame becomes our own toxic trap.Okay, it is hard right now with all of the dangerous, dishonest collusion dangling right in front of us to recognize our righteous anger as harmful. So let’s take the discussion to a more personal level; have you ever been witness to an ugly divorce? One where dangerous, dishonest collusion may have been involved?
The sense of betrayal and heartbreak in the “wronged” party can be excruciating without a doubt, and good friends will not only validate the experience of grief, they will also channel much of their own anger towards the “bad guy”. This provides a temporary sense of relief and support for the person as they extricate themselves from the unhealthy situation. But what ends up happening when they hold on to the anger and blame instead of moving on?We have (unfortunately) all seen parents who (inexplicably) try to turn their children against the ex-spouse after a divorce. If it is not common sense to you that this is a miserable idea, I am not going to Google the kabillion articles that tell you so on your behalf. But even if there are not children involved, how many people do you know that hang on to the bitterness and sense of victimization long after the relationship has resolved? How do these people tend to do in forming new, healthier connections? I won’t Google that for you either.
I once knew a woman whose husband had betrayed her on a level most of us will thankfully never experience; essentially, their whole relationship was a lie. But they had children and even though this man continued to treat her with mind-boggling disrespect after their divorce, I never heard her say a word against him. They maintained a cordial relationship for the kids and she made every effort to allow them whatever access to their father that they chose.I was young enough to be outraged on her behalf and awe-struck by her lack of anger. But as my life evolved and I witnessed the beginnings and endings of more and more relationships I began to see how wise she was. First, because her ex was the father of her children, vilifying him would have meant on some level rejecting them; but also, he had taken so much from her already, she wasn’t going to let him steal another moment of her peace and contentment.
So you are wondering—is this guy not a “bad guy”, in spite of her stalwart efforts to not empower him to ruin her life?Here is my opportunity to give you the whole back story and make you if not empathetic, at least more intellectually understanding of why the man behaved as he did. But I’m not going to do that. I am simply going to point out that there is always more to the story, always. And to paraphrase Neal Donald Walsch (who himself claims to be paraphrasing the Almighty): no one does anything wrong given his/her model of the world.
Ugh, that is hard to accept, isn’t it? But now we can return to those lawmakers who do all of these (horrible IMHO) things with big self-righteous smiles on their faces—smiles we self-righteously want to wipe away—and realize the ugly truth of it…they actually think they are doing the “right” thing. ARRRRGH! SO. HARD. TO. ACCEPT!!!Given my model of the world, they are 12,000 kinds of wrong times a million, but I have to understand that they think THEY are “the good guys”. They think they are protecting me from my naiveté. They think they are putting in place a system that supports the people who “deserve” that help. ARRRRGH!!!!!
Okay, the good news is, like the song says—we can disagree. And unlike the song, we don’t have to “leave it alone”; we are 100% within our rights to stand up for each other and against policies that we believe are dangerous or damaging. That is democracy, and we are seeing it in action now on a daily basis.
The bad news is, when we self-righteously attack their self-righteousness—well, you see where I am going. We A) aren’t getting any closer to a solution and B) are living in an angry space of our own making. Anger breeds anger, contempt evokes contempt and it is just as pointless to vilify someone who we think is making a mess of things (even on a colossal scale) as someone who is having a bad day.
ARRRGH!!! I hate that I’m right about this, I promise you that.If your child made a mistake in class and the teacher screamed at him and told him he was “bad” or “dumb”, you would just about lose your mind, wouldn’t you? The child is in school to learn, and mistakes are part of the learning process; demeaning a child for his mistakes is not going to accomplish anything positive. So why do we think this is the way to go when dealing with other adults?
I hate that I’m right about this. But when we spend our time and energy, whether in our personal and professional relationships or in our global politics, screaming about how “bad” “dumb” and “wrong” the people who disagree with us are, we aren’t getting anywhere we want to go. Mistakes have been made; this goes without saying. The question is, are we going to fixate on it and let our anger feed on itself in that endless loop in our heads?When we (or someone we care about. Or people we don’t even know. Or our country.) have been “wronged”, we have every right to say—“This is unacceptable to me”. We have a right to walk away from people and situations that feel harmful or disrespectful to us. We have a right to make a stand for people who may not be able to stand up for themselves. We have a right, as citizens, to vote, protest, petition and rally. We have a right to speak up for ourselves and our beliefs.
But let’s try to remember that (again, as the song says) we’ve all “grown up differently”. There is always more to the story than meets the eye, always. And as we learn each other’s stories, we begin to understand a little better that we are all doing the best that we can, given where we came from and what we know.My Aunt likes to tell a story about me as a tiny child; she overheard me saying that I thought she must not have gotten enough sleep, given how cranky she was. She loved that even though her crankiness was directed at me, my empathy was with her. Maybe it is too much of a leap to accept that our lawmakers may just have not “gotten enough sleep”; but if we can start from that point of compassion with the people in our lives, it would be a step in the right direction, don’t you think?