I’ll Take Discomfort, Please.

I just had another moment filled with gratitude for the rich harvest of my exploration into human connection over the past year .

One of my Canadian friends, someone I have known for almost 40 years, is also deeply passionate and profoundly upset about the American election results. You might wonder why this would matter to someone who doesn’t live in the United States at all.

My friend has always been passionate to the core. Articulate, whip smart, she can sniff out hypocrisy ahead of the crows, and is a deep believer in human rights, environmental rights, rights for reproductive freedom, just to name a few.

She posted her criticism and disappointment with the the results of the presidential election, and, at first, broadly disparaging views of all Americans in the wake of that decision. I read her vitriolic,angry language on my Facebook feed and felt uncomfortable. I was not alone: I watched as, one by one, friends who had followed my initial thread left the discussion. I felt ashamed. I felt afraid that my friends would judge me by deciding that if I were friends with my passionate angry friend, that I must also endorse her views and her mode of expression.

I noticed the many waves of emotional response that came up for me, but I did not act. Over and over, I thought, why don’t I just ask her to be less strident? Ask a passionate advocate to calm down and be reasonable? When has that ever built connection? Pretty much never. I could Or why don’t I just disconnect myself from her? That will make all the noise and discomfort stop. Actually, to withdraw would create even more distress for me, because she’s someone I care about, and want to stay connected with. Even if I disagree with her.

Even though I did not know how to respond, I knew that to disconnect, unfriend or unfollow her would leave me out of integrity. Integrity, I now know, is doing what is right and not what is quick or easy. Disconnecting would’ve been easy. It would have felt numb, maybe calmer, but would have traded emptiness and isolation for discomfort.

Related: What it means to Stay On The Mat

So I stayed on my mat. I weathered the discomfort for days. And in a little while, my friend suggested on her own that she might remove herself from my public feed because perhaps her she was making people feel uncomfortable.

My passionate friend continues to rail on in messages to me one on one. That feels a little less uncomfortable, but it still makes me feel ashamed when she says “you people in the United States did this.” Especially when Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote. But I suppose my friend was content to indict the entire electoral system, everyone who participated, and everyone who could have but did not.

I reflected some more. When I stopped and processed the shame response, and figured out what is going on underneath, I remembered that I am not alone. I am not the only person who is distressed that someone might decide that, simply because I am a citizen of the United States, the views and statements and values and believes of the president-elect also represent me and everything I believe in. (Just for the record, that would, um, not be true).

I have always loved her for her passions. The incredibly strong language she is using to express her furor and emotion, I realized, also reflects the profound helplessness she feels to be living so close to such a giant nation: a giant that, as far as she can see, appears to be ready to trample fundamental rights and freedoms of millions of people.

Do you remember the line for Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi suddenly steps back in the millennium falcon, and looks as though he has a giant migraine,

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”

Nothing good happens when you travel on people who are afraid and contrary minded. The only thing that happens is that eventually they rise up against you and fight back with a fury that you could not possibly have imagined.

Do you remember the line for Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi suddenly steps back in the millennium falcon, and looks as though he has a giant migraine,

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”

Nothing good happens when you trample on or eliminate people who are afraid and contrary minded. The only thing that happens is that eventually they rise up against you and fight back with a fury that you could not possibly have imagined.

As humans, one of our most primitive wirings is designed to make us respond to something we don’t understand and say “this is something that is not like me. It could kill me or hurt me. Let me kill it instead.”

Millions of years of living in a civilized society are all about subverting that instinct into discussion and understanding. Societies fail when we fail to learn and to teach each other to engage instead of to exterminate.

The point of this post is that I’m discovering ever more deeply both how profoundly we as humans need connection with each other almost as much as we need air in order to thrive. To have that life-giving connection, I am willing to work through discomfort, pain, inconvenience, and hurt. Why not detour around all the hard stuff, numb the hurt, or just avoid it? Because when I don’t work through it, I end up isolating myself from the very people I most need and want in my life, the people whose smarts and love and passion bring such richness, albeit such challenge, to my life.

Related: Why it’s worth risking potential hurt: because the cost of avoiding it is ultimately greater than working through it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s