There are few times when a finger is pointed at you that it’s a good thing. Maybe you’re getting picked for a game of kickball or maybe you’ve raised your hand to be chosen for Let’s Make a Deal…but usually a finger aimed at you is a call-out of some sort.
Merriam Webster defines it as “the act of blaming someone for a problem instead of trying to fix or solve it; the act of making explicit and often unfair accusations of blame.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting exhausted with our culture of finger-pointing.
The polarization of society is something that really hurts my heart. Be it politics, religion—any number of social issues—people are so busy being adamantly, unwaveringly “right” and often just denigrating and denying the other side’s perspective, that our world is filled with hatred and so-called “righteousness.”
When I taught high school English, one of the exercises I created to try to get students ready for a healthy debate was what I called the 9/6 Perspective. (I had to put the numbers in that order because calling it the 6/9 Perspective would cause too much giggling in a room full of teenagers).
The exercise was very simple. I wrote a figure boldly on a piece of paper, set it on a desk, and had all of the students circle around. Then I’d have two students stand on either side of the desk and tell me what they understood to be written on the paper. Without fail, one would say “a 9” and the other would say “a 6.”
I’d ask them “Are you sure?”
“I know my numbers, Ms. Ancona….”
“Of course I know a 6 when I see one…”
They were certain of the facts in front of them.
Then I would ask the rest of the class, “Well….who’s right?”
This would result in multiple voices speaking up…”They both are!” “It depends!” “If you’re on either side, it looks right!”
And so on…And eventually we would put words around the reality that each “side” saw their own truth—though the answers were completely different.
But it was still their truth.
How you see things matters. Where you’re coming from matters.
And the same goes for the other person.
Now don’t think I see myself as righteous in this respect—my own stances can be passionate for sure (ask me about equal rights, gun laws, or preaching love over law and be ready for an impassioned response)—but I know that when we shut the other side down with scorn and disdain, we simply grow farther apart when the real challenge is learning to live together.
Acknowledging and listening doesn’t mean agreeing or embracing. To listen to a 6 when you are a fervent 9 doesn’t mean they win or you give in, but it hopefully brings the debate to a healthier level where opinions are offered without calling names or spewing hatred.
The ease with which we can “plant our flags” and take stands on Facebook and Twitter has only made the situation worse. It always saddens me so when I see someone share their hatred of “the other side” in a post, and then see the “likes” and comments that follow.
Before the ease of social media to share such things, the circles of disdain or hatred were smaller—or at least more under the radar. Now people share how others “disgust” them right after they post what a great time they had at the beach.
I think we can be better.
The person who sees a 9 when you know a 6 is right is still…a person. So while we can hold tight to our belief in 6, let’s not just be “disgusted” by the 9-seer. Let’s instead work toward what we might be able to do to get that person to walk over to our side of the desk and see the 6. Or maybe we need to do the very same to see their 9. And maybe when we’ve done that neither side will have budged a bit, but at least we might better understand why they believe in what they do.
I don’t mean to simplify life’s complex issues and people.
I know it’s not easy to extend grace when we are passionately entrenched on an issue…
…but I believe it’s what we are called to do.
And I very much believe in what the late, great Maya Angelou said time and again: “We are more alike than we are unalike.”
And if we look at one another that way rather than with contempt, we just might have ourselves a better world to live in.