Overcoming the Divisiveness That Surrounds Us

Nell Edgington

Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself worn down by the state of our country. The divisiveness, the anger, the coming apart instead of coming together is increasingly hard to take. And I know many of you feel the same.

It seems that as time marches on we increasingly find ourselves battling the differences between each other, rather than recognizing that there is so much that we hold in common. The us vs. them mentality — a human tendency to want to categorize — has seemingly spiraled out of control. And the result is a country filled with anger, tribalism, anxiety.

But as social change leaders it falls to us — the ones who hold the vision of a common social purpose — to remember what connects us. To eschew the division and fear and instead, as Brene Brown wrote in her book Braving the Wilderness, find true belonging in human connection:

True belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutions for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance…Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours. Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone — to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism. And with the world feeling like a political and ideological combat zone, this is remarkably tough. We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, ideology — that we’re connected by love and the human spirit.

It’s not easy to move past the anger, believe me, I get it. But we must recognize that when you act from a place of anger you are in essence cutting off your power. You are trying to step forward while you are stuck in the muck. If you instead rise above the fray and act from a place of calm and confidence, you are so much stronger and more effective at moving ahead.

So when you are feeling embattled, resentful, or defensive try this: Remove yourself from the storm swirling around you and return to the calm inside — reconnect to your core. Then, and only then, will you recognize your connection to everything else.

From that place of connection, you can emerge stronger and better able to create a more just, equitable and peaceful country.  Again, as Brene Brown writes:

Whether you’re a full-time activist or a volunteer at your mosque or local soup kitchen, most of us are showing up to ensure that people’s basic needs are met and their civil rights upheld. But we’re also working to make sure that everyone gets to experience what brings meaning to life: love, belonging, joy. These are essential, irreducible needs for all of us. And we can’t give people what we don’t have. We can’t fight for what’s not in our hearts.

The challenge for all of us is to refuse to get mixed up in the brawl that surrounds us. The challenge is to tune out the tumult and instead tune into our own calm, internal voice. The voice that tells us who we are and how best to use our unique talents to make the world a better place.

Perhaps the answer to the division that surrounds us lies in forming, whenever and wherever we each can, a kind of radical connectivity.