I value – be it in leadership, teaching, or simple day-to-day interactions – sympathy and empathy. Understanding others is a cornerstone of compassion. And, I believe, how we move our society forward bit by slow bit.
This break carried quite a few conversations about race, society, and the police. I attend a church where blacks and whites worship together. I’ve a friend who is a police officer. We all carry opinions, views, and perspectives. But at least we’re having conversations and trying.
Nashville police chief Steve Anderson wrote a Christmas message worth quoting in part. Along with many cities in the US, Nashville has had its fair share of peaceful protests during the past few weeks. Anderson, in response to the “5%” of folk angry at the “thoughts expressed by the demonstrators” wrote a response letter. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but the key paragraphs are here:
While I don’t doubt that you sincerely believe that your thoughts represent the majority of citizens, I would ask you to consider the following before you chisel those thoughts in stone.
As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to limit our association with other persons to those persons who are most like us. Unfortunately, there is even more of a human tendency to stay within our comfort zone by further narrowing those associations to those persons who share our thoughts and opinions. By doing this we can avoid giving consideration to thoughts and ideas different than our own. This would make us uncomfortable. By considering only the thoughts and ideas we are in agreement with, we stay in our comfort zone. Our own biases get reinforced and reflected back at us leaving no room for any opinion but our own. By doing this, we often convince ourselves that the majority of the world shares opinion and that anyone with another opinion is, obviously, wrong.
It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter. We can still disagree and maintain our opinions, but we can now do so knowing that the issue has been given consideration from all four sides. Or, if we truly give fair consideration to all points of view, we may need to swallow our pride and amend our original thoughts.
And, it is only by giving consideration to the thoughts of all persons, even those that disagree with us, that we can have an understanding as to what constitutes a majority.
Always consider, there are other shoes to walk.