I’ve written and spoken on this topic before, but it begs repeating and even expanding in the wake of such an unusual election and the state of shock our country finds itself in now. You’ve heard the adage: It’s not what happens to you it’s how you respond that counts, right? So true! That is such good advice. It is the story we tell about the events of our lives that shape our lives more than the events themselves. The story we tell ourselves will either empower us or dis-empower us and we must work that out or we will get stuck by our own thinking. Having mentors in your life who can point out the world beyond the forest and the trees when we can no longer see the forest for the trees is an essential component of every successful person’s strategy for living.
That said, and that being all well in good, it comes up a bit short when it creates an internal climate that dismisses any reasonable voice that challenges the narrative. We can become ripe for self-deception and vulnerable to manipulation when we block messages simply because we do not like who is sending them. Paul Simon captured this human truth perfectly when he sang ‘Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’.
Case in point: The Facebook Bubble. Our feeds begin to mirror our preferences and in time most things we do not like are weeded out of our little Facebook garden. Every link we click on, every search we instigate, even things in some cases we say that our microphones pick up become part of the feedback loop that populates the ads, the news stories and the narrative of our FB page. Can you see how dangerous and myopic this becomes? And when the media surrenders it’s authority to bring truth to power we find ourselves in quite a predicament. I believe this is why there is so much shock and anger among the people whose candidate did not win and who now feel the only rational thing to do is to riot. It is important that we recognize our role in this. This isn’t ‘happening to us’. We are manufacturing this crisis by not listening to other opinions, by shutting someone out instead of hearing what they are saying. We have a generation of people who freak out and shut down if someone doesn’t see the world the way they see it. This does not bode well for the future of our country or the world.
There is a strong human tendency to view those we like in their best light and those we dislike in their worst light. This has reached such a frenzy on Facebook that in one person’s feed you would see manipulated photos of HRC to make her look like a she-devil ready to rip your fetus out of your body limb by limb. That is no exaggeration of the vitriol that was and is served up daily. And, in another’s feed you see every stupid thing Trump ever said taken out of context and used to bridge a narrative that is a constant effort at fear-mongering to convince women, blacks and minorities if he gets elected the KKK will be back in power. Both are ridiculous caricatures, far removed from truth and unfortunately now are living personifications in the minds and hearts of people.
So remember this, a person is neither their worse version of themselves nor their best. Trump is neither who the rioters say he is nor is he the Savior of modern man. They, like us live on a continuum between the two. Hopefully, as we grow in wisdom and years we are moving up the continuum towards the better version of ourselves. Be conscientious in your social media interactions. Friend (or re-friend) those that do not share your world view. Avoid direct dialogue across the public board. Instead, pick up the phone or better yet buy that person a cup of coffee. Don’t just repost something without checking the sources and the inherent bias of your sources. And ask yourself, does this need to be said? Does this need to be said this way? Bias is unavoidable and it needs to constantly be policed if you want to build trust, relatability and real community.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8