Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Recently someone called me a libtarded b—- in the course of a Facebook discussion regarding the president’s executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule. Also known as the Mexico City Policy, this rule bars foreign aid or federal funding for international nongovernmental organizations that promote or provide abortions. I don’t think his comment is helping to heal the rift between people in the world these days.
I believe with all my heart that we need to come together in this moment in our nation’s and our world’s history. But doing so isn’t always immediately so easy. Sociologist Jonathan Haidt says we are more disgusted by “the other side” and we do not just dislike but strongly dislike those on the other side — whatever the issue is. Overcoming those feelings is not easy work to do.
It is simpler to shout into our own echo chambers. They are excellent because they are safe. But Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems using the same thinking we used to create them.” In order to make changes in our nation, we have to come together with those we may not like and we may not trust…yet. By coming together, the hope is, that the things that divide us will fall to the side and we can unite around our commonalities of which we have so many.
As a rabbi, I find myself helping couples with marriage communication not infrequently. There are skills you use when working with couples which are absolutely applicable here.
First of all, no name calling, no stonewalling or giving each other the silent treatment. Which means if you don’t like what the other person is saying you cannot just exit the conversation. If you need a break you take it but you name it first and you don’t just slam the door and walk out.
You practice active listening. There is this inane but totally effective tool where you repeat back to the person what you understand of what they have just said, “What I hear you saying is you think…” and then the person who made the original statement gets to say, yes you got it or no, that’s not quite what I was going for — let me clarify. Which means when someone says something inflammatory or radically different from what you believe, you dig deep and look to clarify exactly what the other person is thinking and saying.
Practice radical curiosity. Which means the more unrelateable the belief is, the more you delve to get to the core. How did they come to that belief? What experiences enforce it? What values does it represent?
Can you imagine if we applied this tool to our Facebook discussions? Especially the heated ones?
So I propose this. As we move forward, we all try our best to be good listeners. To be excellent stewards of our own ideas and profound receivers of the ideas of others. We show our love by guarding the words we use especially when angry tired worn out and frustrated. And maybe just maybe we can start to mend and heal.