“The capacity for getting along with our neighbor depends to a large extent on the capacity for getting along with ourselves. The self-respecting individual will try to be as tolerant of his neighbor’s shortcomings as he is of his own. Self-righteousness is a manifestation of self-contempt. When we are conscious of our worthlessness, we naturally expect others to be finer and better than we are. We demand more of them than we do of ourselves, and it is as if we wished to be disappointed in them. Rudeness luxuriates in the absence of self-respect.”
Eric Hoffer in The Ordeal of Change
My friends, we are being lied to! We are being manipulated! There are larger forces at work than the villains they show us on TV and the stories that flood our social media accounts. Can we please all take a few deep breaths and honestly look at ourselves?
We are tribal creatures by nature. It’s in our DNA. We simply can’t help ourselves from acting on our tribal instincts. It’s no different than our natural fight, flight, or freeze responses we are all aware of. Tribalism has been with us since the very beginning and we seem no closer to outgrowing it today than we were centuries ago. However, the difference with today’s tribalism is we are one news feed (fake or real) away from being hostile and willing to yell and scream at our neighbor.
We carry in our hands a device that endlessly effects our mood for the day. We see something we don’t like and we are instantly infuriated for hours. Our egos think up witty and sharp responses to the “other” and immediately the fuel is poured on the fire. One of my friends on social media actually posted this: “If you support Trump, unfriend me now!” This person is willing to give up genuine relationships with REAL human beings over political differences and FAKE NEWS. And even if this person only cares to be genuine friends with people of like political views, isn’t that the epitome of tribalism?
If you don’t think like me, don’t talk to me!
It’s not just on social media (as I am sure you are all well-aware). In loving families, people are walking away and refusing to talk to one another because of political and social differences. It’s like we’re all one wrong word away from going berserk on everyone around us.
One aspect of tribalism that often gets overlooked is idolatry. We think a lot of idolatry as something we have outgrown but let’s take a look at the definition: “Worship of idols; and extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.” Please can we try to be honest with ourselves? Much of our religious, political, financial, and national worldviews are drenched in idolatry. We never take enough time away from any of it to see clearly. We never have a chance to clear our heads because another news feed is hot off the press and pushing our buttons yet again.
“An individual who is a member of a compact group is more imitative than the individual who is on his own. The unified individual is without a distinct self and, like the child, his mind is without guards against the intrusion of influences from without.”
Eric Hoffer in The Ordeal of Change
Our governments, the elected officials that we willingly place in office, consistently and habitually lie to us. Think I am crazy? Lyndon Johnson lied to us time and again about the Vietnam War. George W. Bush lied to us about weapons of mass destruction. Bill Clinton lied to us about sexual relations. Richard Nixon lied to us about, well, nearly everything. George H.W. Bush said, “Read my lips. No new taxes.”
I’m sorry, this is not just one political party. Both sides are equally disgusting at their worst and equally good at their best.
Here is where I struggle with all of this: Why do we allow our tribalism to divide us so easy?
America is considered a “Christian” nation and that means a great deal to many individuals. Ask any Bible-believing Christian and they will tell you that Jesus is their perfect example of being human. I may be wrong, but I suspect Jesus would never drop a nuclear bomb that kills over 129,000 people and destroying the regions for decades. I also suspect Jesus would never have a campaign in Vietnam called Operation Rolling Thunder. I suspect Jesus would not build walls, he would not demolish countries to control their oil reserves, and he would not blindly support a political regime come-hell-or-high-water just because that’s the way it’s always been around here. If being a “Christian” nation means we all do our best to emulate Jesus’ example, how long until that example trickles into our daily exchanges between differing opinions?
“Is there a connection between frustration and the readiness to imitate? Is imitation in some manner a means of escape from the ills that beset the frustrated? The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others. We are therefore more ready to imitate those who are different from us than those nearly like us, and those we admire than those we despise. The desire to belong is partly a desire to lose oneself.”
Eric Hoffer in The True Believer
Much of what plagues our tribal mentality we all possess is a fear of the unknown. During the actual tribal days, whatever was outside their tribe was killed first, then questioned after. Their fear of the unknown caused them to kill before being killed. When we look at this on a global scale, we are still being manipulated by those same tribal fears. Communism is bad, kill it! Socialism is bad, kill it! Islam is bad, kill it! Fear of the unknown permeates nearly all our justifiable reasons for violence.
What if there was another way?
What if instead of throwing rocks at every man, woman, or child that thinks differently than we do, we take time to listen to them? What if we put the relationship FIRST and then put the differences last? I know some real amazing people who think differently than I do about a wide array of topics.
Carl Rogers is a world-famous psychotherapist who created Person-Centered therapy. He believed if the client was given a supportive environment they would naturally change for the better. He stressed the counselor approaches the client with complete acceptance and caring—unconditional positive regard. When I turn on the news, when I look at my social media feeds, and when I read comments on any post from any person, the last thing I find there is unconditional positive regard. We are quick to spew our hatred and prejudices all around without any care in the world how the “other” may feel about our ignorance. “We” are right! “They” are wrong! Really? It’s imperative to remember what we know as “reality” can be viewed from multiple perspectives.
“At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation and prejudice.”
Friends, can we please take our tribalism and idolatry and set it on the shelf for a while? Can we please take a leave of absence from any real or fake news that is meant to incite our ignorance? Instead of reacting from our ego, can we please breathe, meditate, center ourselves, and remember the “other” you are about to throw a dagger towards is just like you. By hurting the “other” you are hurting yourself. By loving the “other” you are loving yourself.
What would Jesus say? “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
I believe we can get there as a species. We are making progress whether you choose to believe it or not. We are consistently raising our evolutionary consciousness. Let’s keep moving forward and lead with love.
I have to be completely honest with you, I struggle with this every single day! I don’t want to come across as a hypocrite like I have magically learned to treat everyone with love in every situation. There are people in my life who think differently than me and treat people I dearly love very poor. I wrestle with my old tribalism almost to exhaustion some days. This is not something we can wave a magic wand and have it all just disappear, but we can each do our parts as individuals. What if instead of posting a response out of anger or ego, we prayed? What if instead of quickly disagreeing, we listened? What if instead of snapping with anger, we meditate for five minutes?
Instead of adding any fuel to the fire, my deepest desire with these words is to beg, plead, and pray that we will all take a moment and reflect on why we are so quick to spit venom in the face of the “other.” Yes, there are outside forces that are manipulating each of us with their viewpoints, but we don’t have to take the bait. We can remain calm, centered, peaceful, and loving amidst all kinds of craziness.
I am open to your thoughts and I will do my best to give you the unconditional positive regard that you deserve.
Peace my Friends!