This is why my friends and I started “Building
Bridges KC”—to try to get past divisive labels
and get back to real communication, respect,
and cooperation. Our mission isn’t to change
anyone’s mind or to get everyone to agree with
each other. We believe there is value in simply
sharing our perspectives. We have found that
breakthroughs happen when we truly listen to
one another, and that healing happens when we
are truly seen and heard.
Ned Kelley, one of the cocreators of the group,
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
put it this way: “My spiritual beliefs are rooted in
the idea of oneness. We are all one. We shouldn’t
and can’t do harm to others. To me that means I
must not force my beliefs on others.”
It’s important to remember that before we are
liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans,
we are human beings. Beneath all the labels, we
are all one family, children of God. We’re in this
together. There’s a lot of work to be done to make
this a country—and a world—that works for all. We
can’t do it unless we work together. Like it or not, we
need each other.
My experience with “Building Bridges KC” has
taught me some valuable lessons—lessons that
are applicable in any heated political discussion.
Here are five tips for when and how to engage in
1.;Don’t get caught up in “us vs. them.”
Don’t be too attached to one party or
idea. Don’t be too quick to label others
or lump them into any category.
2.;Listen from the heart. Don’t
assume you already know what
someone else thinks or feels. Be
curious. Listen to understand, not
to respond. Be willing to learn, to be
changed and transformed.
3.;Use “I” statements. Talk about
how you feel, what you’ve seen and
experienced, instead of making
accusations toward others. (For
example, “I feel frustrated about
this,” works better than, “You always
do this!”) Avoid trigger words and
other offensive language.
4.;Seek common values. We all
share certain human experiences,
emotions, and values; we differ in
how we express them. We all have
the same universal needs; we use
different strategies to get those
needs met. Don’t get stuck on the
differences. Go deeper, and find
the underlying need or value. The
question, “Why is that important to
you?” can be a useful one.
5.;Know when to walk away. If
a conversation escalates into
verbal abuse or otherwise
becomes stressful or frightening,
it’s okay to walk away. Set clear
boundaries, and refuse to engage
with anyone who keeps stepping
When we enter into the political arena, we must
do so with mindfulness and compassion. Let us
not check our spiritual principles at the door, but
remain centered and prayerful. Remember that
God dwells within each one of us! Let us express
our Christ qualities of wisdom, patience, love, and
understanding as we strive to see, and call forth, the
Divine in others.
THE ACTIVIST SPIRIT
As important as civil discourse is today, I also
acknowledge that there are times when talking
is not enough. Sometimes more decisive action
is called for—especially when the well-being of
individuals, communities, and entire ecosystems
is at stake.
“The human race has a long history of struggle
and resistance,” says Loran Van Benthusen, a
Unity member, activist, and environmentalist.
“Often change happens only when we resist.
Take a stand. When we start losing the will to
resist, we become lost. We become complacent,