I regularly see posts on social media from people saying, “If you voted for_________ (fill in the blank), you can unfriend me,” or “never speak to me again,” or a variation on a division between people who once were friends or who loved each other. Our current political era has created a greater divide, or at least a louder one, than most of us have ever seen before.
This is not just happening in America. A couple from England explained to me how Brexit has not only created a division in Europe, but also in households and families. Those for or against can simply not understand the others, nor change their minds. I have heard similar sentiments from those in Canada, and now, France.
So what do we do when our political stand and our friendships clash?
This is a particularly challenging question because on each side of the table people are feeling like deep-set values are being threatened. When our core safety or that of those we love is threatened our protective natures emerge.
It is important to take a step back and employ what I call “Six Essential Life Skills” so we can access solutions. At first, it seems cumbersome to remember steps. However, once learned and practiced, they all happen in one breath and can guide your behavior toward healthier solutions than merely turning your back on people that you love.
The first essential skill is to remember who you really are (and if you don’t know, figure it out.) When we remember that at our core we are spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than a ego vying to be right, we tend to behave differently. While politics and policy are critically important on our rights, freedoms and our environment’s well-being, what may even be more important is how we behave, how we treat others, how we speak and what we choose to think.
When we take the time to identify who we really are at the soul level, we may list “activist” but even more core than that, we may identify “loving, integrity, compassionate, forgiving” as our higher self-description.
While we journey down the path of remembering who we really are, it is helpful to remember who everyone really is, too. We are all divine beings, trying to figure out how to do this human thing, how to be safe, how to keep our families fed and find our way to enlightenment. Some just may be way further along the path than others, but like it or not, we are all on the path.
The second of essential life skills is to identify your target and remember what you are truly aiming for. Again, a certain political outcome or consciousness may be your target, but upon deeper introspection, you may discover that “healthy relationships with family/friends, integrity, respect, and understanding” are closer to your bull’s eye. We have to be careful not to side step our spiritual goals for less important human aspirations.
The third essential life skill is to become self-observant. Self-observation causes us to be mindful. Mindfulness allows us to see the big picture and realize that our choices either lead toward our “target” or away from it.
The fourth essential life skill is to evaluate our options and choose which target we want. Do we want to be right, or do we want to be loving? Do we want to honor fear or faith? Do we want to honor our politics over our relationships? Take a step back and ask yourself, if I put this person down, call them names, stop speaking to them or accuse them of being bad and wrong, will that lead toward my goal? In essence, we begin to see that our ego’s reactionary behaviors don’t actually accomplish our goals. Being defensive, indignant, and insulting does not actually change the other person’s mind, nor does it lead to a better planet, or policies, nor does it lead to healthy relationships and greater integrity. When we really take the time to evaluate, we see the insanity of doing and saying things that don’t actually lead where we want to go.
The fifth essential skill requires that we recalibrate with who we really are and access the creativity of our spirits. This process is a one-breath meditation where we take the “down elevator” from our ego mind to our spirits, and realign with the self-identified qualities that we aspire to embody: loving, integrity, compassionate, forgiving, humble, creative, accepting, imaginative, trusting, wise, intuitive, to name a few. Once we have accessed these innate spiritual qualities, we move to the sixth essential life skill: Choosing our words, thoughts and actions in alignment with who we really are and what we are trying to create.
Once we have recalibrated, we step into the creativity of other options:
I can love you without agreeing with you.
I can be friends with you without talking politics with you.
I can keep my distance from you, while still honoring your core goodness.
I can forgive you.
I can admit that I was wrong.
In whatever form ‘judgment day” may be on our souls, I seriously doubt the question at the pearld gates will be “Who did you vote for?” but rather more akin to “How did you treat those who voted differently than you?”
Simply put, when love and political views clash, choose love.