Photo Credit: YouTube, Coleman Hughes
Who are you? With whom or with what groups do you affiliate? How do you identify yourself?
Important questions in any season.
Today, we sift what people say about their beliefs and ideas and assess value based on their groups and affiliations. We do.
For the last several months, we have had the opportunity thrust upon us (if we weren’t so engaged before) to think deeply about what we believe. Now the temptation exists, as we are very much communal beings, to go with groups…groups we have always trusted.
Groups (and group-think) are fluid. Our tendency is to think they are fixed, but they are not.
Of late, I’ve been trying to be diligent to seek out people who don’t look like me, who don’t necessarily think like me, with the goal of listening and learning. Face-to-face is best and most fruitful. However, with COVID and affiliations (associations) too homogeneous (unfortunately), I’ve often resorted to finding these thinkers on-line.
Writer philosopher Coleman Hughes and stylist culture commentator Ayishat Akanbi recently had an immensely helpful conversation. On maturity. On curiosity over defensiveness. You can watch/listen to this bit (a mini-clip) of their conversation here or the whole conversation here.
In fact, below you will find some of Coleman’s and Ayishat’s conversation. I wish there was a transcript for the whole podcast but this segment was so powerful, it’s right here:
Coleman – Maturity is being able to hear something undesirable about your in-group and view it objectively instead of defensively.
Ayishat – It seems to be one of the foundational problems of everything. We cannot hear anything undesirable about a group that we belong to. We are only willing to accept the narrative…only willing to look at the part of the story that focuses [outwardly]. We’re not allowed to acknowledge that any problem could potentially start at home.
We just want to outsource blame constantly.
Conversations are very stagnant.
I prioritize curiosity above many things. If someone was to say something negative about me, before I get defensive, I’m just like, “Hmmm, interesting. I wonder if this is true.” I’m more likely to interrogate at first. If we’re able to look at something with more curiosity than defensiveness, we’re in a better position.
I just think if we’re if we recognize having undesirable aspects of our communities or groups…it doesn’t mean they’re bad; it doesn’t mean you’re a wrong person. It’s a little texture. It think we just see everything as good or bad.
Coleman – Just like a person can have flaws and imperfections, a person of maturity can see their own flaws and always be curious about them. If your significant other says, “Hey, you have this thing you always do and it makes me feel bad.” Maturity in that moment is the ability to say, “Wait, are they right? Let me think about this.” Maybe they’re not, but maybe they are.
We all recognize that’s true of the individual case, but when it comes to groups, it seems people aren’t able to do that.
I’d like to close with a bit of transparency. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, which, for me, includes trusting that God has preserved and protected every word of His message to us through the Holy Scriptures. In religious circles, I identify as evangelical, not deterred by our culture’s attack on evangelicals right now. Trying to be curious and not defensive about that. Growing up during the women’s rights movement (ERA), the shockingly late desegration of schools, and Roe v. Wade being made law. Same sex attraction became especially real to me when a cherished friend in college sought a romantic relationship with me. A deep personal loss when she ended that friendship because I turned out to be un-altering in my heterosexuality. Always captivated by politics, I was staunchly liberal and a Democrat…until I wasn’t. Today my politics are more conservative, even Republican, but driven by policy rather than personality. I am an older white woman with all that seems to communicate.
Daughter. Sister. Friend. Nurse. Wife. Mother. Gram. Writer. [Decided I couldn’t leave any of these out. More for me than you.]
How many sentences into the above paragraph did it take, if you don’t know me personally, to think either better of me…or worse? Believe me, I have been there…and, too often, done that.
We have an opportunity before us…to stop thinking we know people by the groups with whom we align…to stop judging people by only what we think we see without learning how we came to that way of thinking. Listen and learn. Outsourcing blame only keeps us divided from one another.
If we want our grandchildren to have a world to thrive in, we can teach them how to listen, learn, and then live according to the greatest good possible. I saw a billboard this weekend. It was a stark black background with the white letters emblazoned brightly: “Love One Another”. For me, it was immediately refreshing and comforting as this is something Jesus taught and lived without exception…even calling us to also love our enemies. On the billboard, the message was attributed to The Beatles band member George Harrison.
The message is true. If we bristle, it’s because our group alignment is showing. The message is still true.
[Postscript: the quote below really has nothing to do with the post above. I just love it because it is a personal struggle, and because I’m listening to Ayishat (the “t” is silent in her name) A. Akanbi.]
Photo Credit: Pinterest, Instagram