For a week after the election I had a conversation almost everyday with someone who voted differently than me. I move into research mode when I don’t understand something. So like a new grad student I eagerly hit “the books” and began asking What did you think you were voting for when you voted for Trump? And then I would respond This is why I’m scared. And then usually the person would say That’s not what I voted for. And back and forth we would go until we could here each other more. Most of these conversations happened within my family. I wrote about how my family and I are a multi-political family and worked hard during the election season to hear each other. You can check it out here.
So the work of careful connection continues, for all of us. As we gear up for the holidays here are a few practices all of us, across the political spectrum, can use to help us dwell with each other in love.
- Take care of yourself. Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This implies I need to love myself in order to care for my neighbor. There is a reason why I have been to yoga almost everyday since November 9th. I’m still sad. I’m still angry. I’m nervous we will normalize things that should not be normalized (like saying “alt-right” instead of calling things what they are: racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc…). Get the rest you need. Drink water. Move your body. Eat good food. Laugh. Take care of yourself so you can show up to harder conversations.
- Know your boundaries. There have been times when I have begun a conversation with someone and somewhere in the middle I start feeling really defensive and my ego is like a ravenous monster wanting to attack the person I’m with (and trust me, I know how to win an argument which only feeds my feeble hungry ego more). It’s ok to say “You know what, I’m starting to get more heated than I want in this conversation. I’m nervous I’m not going to respect you or respect me if we keep going on this topic. Could we table it for another time? You and I are both worth good conversation.”
- Transparency. I am not ashamed for saying I believe Trump is a narcissist and how many are using his win as validation for white supremacy and racist hate crimes. I will stand by the truth of how I see things. I also desire that those sitting around the family dinner with me will stand by the truth of how they see things. As one family member of mine said “I could never vote for a baby killer so I could never vote for someone who supports abortion.” That family member and I disagree fundamentally about the access of abortion, but this family member knows they could say what they are thinking transparently to me. It’s not always comfortable and that’s ok. We need to be courageous and be vulnerable to share how we see things the way we do.
- Laugh. Joy is the resistance. Table the political conversation, get out the football or the board games, and just be together. Laugh together. Remember the things you appreciate about each other. Cultivate love for each other. Remember why your dad, though he voted differently than you, can cook a mean pumpkin pie that the family loves. Go on a walk with that brother who voted differently than you and be out in nature. Crawl up in the family room and watch a good movie together. This does not approve the difference of opinion and conviction, this is about the love revolution. Connecting with our humanity again.
Finally, the picture is a very helpful diagram on how to talk with family this holiday season. My colleague and friend, Dr. Jacqui Lewis, put this together for her congregation. I think this can be helpful for us, too.
We have one task and one task alone, to love. Love God, love our neighbor, love ourselves. This one task feels daunting sometimes so we keep practicing it.
May we experience and be participants in the love revolution this Thanksgiving meal.