Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)
There are few who would deny that our country is at a crisis point.
The past few years have brought to light a reality many in our country were unaware of, the reality of ongoing, widespread, and at least at times systematic racism. Personally, I have found this reality to be both shocking and horrifying, especially with the number of times it leads to the death of an unarmed person over trivial matters.
For many, it seems like these events are isolated and random, but there are voices that are calling these symptoms of something the Black community, and all communities of color, have lived with for as long as they can remember.
I don’t want to believe this is true, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
When we don’t value Life, then we cease valuing individual lives. I believe this is what we’ve seen in the past days, weeks, and years.
As long as we are focused on ourselves, protecting ourselves and solving our own problems, we will not be able to heal our communities.
Is there hope for our nation? It seems to me that we are being torn apart at the seams.
The racial tensions that were brought to the surface with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 have not been properly addressed, and so situations have merely escalated.
- Many have reacted rather than responded.
- Some have capitalized on the pain for their own gain.
- Few have presented any plan for resolving the issues.
The Beginning of a Solution
I often talk about the “barriers to connection” described by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen in their book Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In. The first barrier is “the fight or flight syndrome” – the natural reaction we have when we feel attacked is to either fight back and hurt the other person first OR to avoid the situation altogether. Both reactions lead to our current status quo and the unacceptable “new normal” of flags at half mast.
How can we break the “fight or flight” cycle? It starts by taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on others. Let me be clear: I am primarily talking to the White community here, of which I am visibly a part.
We need to start with a radical selflessness, focusing on what is best for our communities rather than for a handful of individuals. It requires sacrificing some of our “rights” and “rewards” to create the change we need.
Think about this: if Jesus could make “Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and [come] in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), can’t we set aside our need to be right, to protect our positions and perspectives?
My life’s work has been dedicated to helping people from different cultural groups become able to understand each other. This is exactly what needs to happen on a national level. This is what needs to happen at a personal level.
- We have to listen, deeply listen to the heart and not the words alone.
- We have to choose our response, not merely react out of anger, fear, or grief.
- We must learn to collaborate on solutions; this will require a re-establishment of trust and dialogue.
I have seen promising stories of just such things happening. Let’s see an epidemic of understanding, unity, and healing!