Are you fighting a civil war?

Mini civil wars are sprouting up all over. Name calling and unfriending abound as we draw close our circle of opinion, even among family members.

We live in interesting and curious times.

As the confusing climate of the world heats up, so much in life is polarized. I’m curious about how we’ll view this time in 20 years.

There are many strong opinions being presented in the headlines and on social media. People with different perspectives easily become opponents, instead of just other human beings who hold a different opinion.

As the old saying goes, opinions are a dime a dozen. Many of us live in silos of opinion, listening to, and reading only what we agree with, or ridiculing and bullying anyone with an opposing opinion. I’m often reminded of school-yard bullies instead of rational adults.

My opinions and beliefs have changed many times, and, I hope, will continue to evolve and deepen. I’ve learned not to believe everything I think, but to analyze and consider my opinions and why I hold them.

Our opinions are so dear, and when we cling to them and refuse to truly listen to opposing beliefs, it’s easy to throw walls up. It’s easy to stop listening when others share opposing opinions, but when we do this, we lose out on learning.

Not everyone who holds a different view point is an idiot; they just see things differently. They have different knowledge, experience, concerns and history we may not be privy to.

Instead of name calling, or unfriending, what would happen if we listened to understand?

This is a time for civil discourse, not a time for civil war. To have civil discourse, we have to learn to listen and not dismiss everyone as an idiot or an enemy, who differs in opinion.

I used to listen only to formulate my response. I wasn’t actually listening, but thinking and planning a rebuttal. It’s a common human practice.

I’ve really grown as I’ve learned to listen to understand. Learning to listen, really listen, to the message and deeper meaning of the message of another, takes practice.

I admit to being confused about what’s happening in our world, and I want to understand others who hold different opinions and beliefs. I’ve made it a practice to listen to more diverse sources and perspectives, even though they challenge my beliefs, and through this, I am learning.

I was shocked recently when a friend shared her political perspective that’s diametrically opposed to my own.  Arrogant me made the assumption that, because we are friends and hold other similar beliefs, we’d be aligned politically. I was wrong.

I admit to an initial reaction of wanting to label her and stick her in the camp of "other," but instead decided to become curious and to listen deeply. Instead of offering my opposing opinion and rationale, or arguing with her, I chose to ask gentle questions to help me to understand.

As I listened, really listened, I came to a deeper understanding and appreciation for her perspective. This opened my mind to things I hadn’t yet considered. We had a civil discourse.

In civil discourse, we engage in conversation to enhance understanding. It’s not meant to convince or argue with another, but to listen deeply to what’s being said, and the intent behind the words.  

Much of our message isn’t in the words we speak, but what lies behind them. Instead of judging their message as wrong or right depending on our beliefs and opinions, we remain open and curious.

Civil discourse isn’t a contest. It’s a time for people to share their views without rancour. As we share, it’s important we don’t make it personal, and we afford the person the same respect we’d hope to receive.

It’s interesting to see if we can remain calm when other people are saying things we dislike or that oppose your perspective. We grow as we learn to listen through our differences, and not pin our discomfort on another person, making them bad.

As we mindfully listen and speak with one another, bridges of understanding can be built. We can stop the war, and begin creating a world that works for everyone.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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