It is not possible to eliminate every source of tension and disagreement in our lives. While in the U.S. military, my daughter adopted the “bring it on” attitude when tasked to bark out orders as a new squad leader.
She took the stress response up as energizing vs. debilitating. The nerve-wracking energy worked in her favor. When it failed, the triggers were opportunities to learn and grow from.
Fear does not need to be our enemy. We’ve always had a competitive and adventurous spirit. We’ve always been lively, rebellious and culturally diverse.
The trouble is that many aspects of our life—the phone notifications, the cable news crawl, the social media posts—are bruising, amplifying a lot of misinformation and fear mongering. Isn’t it possible to participate in a fantastic argument and have a robust disagreement?
Agreement has rarely been the qualifier for people to love each other. We are alive when we can discuss in a space where we are not destroying one another. I get passionate and raise my voice, but that communication is just an Irish exchange over a Guinness! Politics and religion seem to parallel with salvation for many, and it is hard to wonder if we could be wrong or if the other has something valid to say.
When we stop questioning and believe we alone see truth, our brains turn to mush. A deep virtue of kindness, goodness, curiosity and the enjoyment of saying, “Yeah, we disagree,” is often missing.
But we evolved to be compassionate as far back as our hunter-gathering days. If one member of the tribe suffers, we were all at risk; so, taking care of one another is hardwired into our species.
To be fruitful, to be able to have discourse about things with less fear and to be confident does not mean agreeing. Language that is soft but robust needs the green light: We can have this with each other.
To live well together is a vision we have. That does not mean to agree or to have things perfect. It means to say that in the context of imperfection and difficulty, we can find the capacity and the skill, as well as the generosity and courtesy, to live well together.
Margaret Wachholz is the campus marketing director at Woodbury Senior Living. In her column, she shares observations and wisdom about aging and senior living in our community. woodburyseniorliving.com