In this week when the political divide in this country is growing like a flesh eating bacterial infection, I am feeling blue. My political views are not a mystery, and I don’t like what is happening with the Supreme Court.
But even more, I am upset about the vitriol between regular people. The nastiness on the internet, and the rifts between friends and family is literally painful to me. I think I must be crazy for hosting an workshop on Healing the Political Divide next week.
Yet just a few days ago, I listened to an inspiring interview that gives me hope that we can bring healing between people. Krista Tippett talked to abortion-rights activist Frances Kissling on her podcast On Being. Kissling described a process she uses to bridge the gap, which I’ll share below in our practice for the week. But first, she invoked a few soul traits with her assumptions
- Don’t try to find common ground between apposing sides. I think she spoke her Truth when she explained that there isn’t a lot of common ground between a group of Catholic Bishops and abortion rights advocates.
- Recognize the good in the other side. This reminds me of Gratitude mussar practice, to recognize the good and give thanks.
- Refuse to see the other side as evil. This is a wonderful Honor practice, in that we remember there is divine in each person.
With these three assumptions, we come to a Mussar practice, which is based directly on one of Francis Kissling’s tools.
****Here’s the Mussar Practice***
Say something that you are attracted to in the other side’s position, and something about your own sides position that gives you trouble. Speak out loud, either alone or to someone close to you. This is particularly powerful when you are paired with someone who disagrees with you. Frances Kissling, an abortion rights activist and Christian ethicist David Gushee use this tool at the end fo the podcast.
Kissling said, “I’m generally troubled by the one-value approach to the question. That the only value in both moral decision-making and in legality, is what the woman wants.” Complicated questions, like abortion for sex selection are not considered. And, she found something very attractive about the holistic approach to life and life-processes on the other side.
Gushee said, “One of the things I’m attracted to … is the sustained knowledgeable commitment to the well-being of women.” Gushee said he is concerned about that the activists who want to see Roe overturned might be leading to a world with more abortions if they are also shredding the safety net.
If these two people on opposite sides debate can each disagree about abortion like a mensch, then perhaps we can find something attractive in the position of people on the other side of the political chasm.
This is a practice in the soul trait of Honor (Kavod.) Each of us has a Divine Spark that is occluded by our baggage. If you are unsure of the Divinity, think of it as the basic element of goodness that each of us has. Our baggage can keep us from seeing our own spark, or the spark of others. Or, it can keep others from seeing our own spark. The universal Divine Spark means that each of us has merit, as Yehoshua ben Perachia said:
“Make for yourself a mentor, acquire for yourself a friend and judge every person as meritorious.” – Pirkei Avot 1:6
In his book “Every Day Holy Day,” Alan Morinis suggests the mantra “There is another side to the story” when we are working on judging others favorably. Getting to know someone you disagree with enough to see their side of the story is a menchy action, a Holy action.
May each of us find the strength to get to know one person on the other side well enough to see through their eyes.
Do you want to help heal the political Divide? Join the Healing the Political Divide Mussar Workshop on October 11th, 2018