One Simple Step Toward Maturity
One of the effects of he COVID curse is how it has increased tensions among people. So, what else is new, huh? Maybe its not all a curse if it can also be a laboratory. (Stop the eye-rolling, please.) Have you noticed how fractured our social community is becoming? Sure, much of that is the really awful political climate here in Canada and in the U.S.
I used to say about living in Canada, that no matter which party was elected, the government of the day would ultimately track towards the middle road. I don’t think that’s true anymore, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I want to offer one bit of theory. Save the brickbats and rotten tomatoes, please. I’m just calling it as I see it.
I think our society in general has regressed to a lower level of personal maturity. No this is not some old guy calling out the modern generation because they don’t do things the way we did. In fact, I see this trait in all age groups.
The one characteristic I want to point to is our increasing tendency to not want anything to do with people who don’t agree with us. The Cancel Culture has taken it to a more intense level, but I think it’s common across the board. People who don’t think like us or offer theories that annoy us, can just be unfriended. One mouse click and, POOF, they’re gone.
One of the visible symptoms is that when people who share the same thought patterns naturally group together, there is often significant hostility toward those who don’t share our assumptions. This is particularly visible in the political arena, but its visible elsewhere.
The extreme end are the people on the left and the right of the spectrum who simply will not abide contrary opinions being expressed in public. Speakers with unpopular views get banned by those with the loudest voices. And in media, people are almost defined by which news outlet they use for their information. To the point it almost seems cultish to me. And dangerous.
One of my favorite authors and speakers was the late rabbi Edwin Friedman. He said he made a point of annually preaching a sermon in his synagogue in which he clearly defined his theological stance on a variety of subjects.
He said he would lose a few families annually just because some folks could not abide him speaking clearly and defining his own viewpoints. He didn’t think that was a bad thing.
To be clear, he wasn’t wanting to lose people who didn’t agree with him, though I suppose that happened. He said his purpose was to encourage folks to take on simple step toward maturity.
Here’s how he defined that, and is the heart of Family Systems Theory. Personal maturity can be measured by the degree to which I can remain in relationship with people who aren’t just like me and don’t always agree with me. The reason is that it means I can cope with a bit of anxiety and not fold my cards, and walk away.
You can actually grow that trait intentionally. Rather than cutting off someone with whom you don’t share much in common, stick in the relationship and listen to what they are saying. You don’t have to agree, in fact you may passionately disagree, but you don’t have to walk away and slam the door in their face.
I am not saying you have to stick around someone who is abusive or manipulative or dishonest. Those are categories of behavior that should not be tolerated. If you can’t bring yourself to confront, then say “no thanks” and walk away. But reserve that only for the person who doesn’t respect you.
But with people who have honest differences with us, the very act of connecting forces us to stretch even just a little bit, and that’s one small step toward a higher level of maturity. Don’t agree with the preacher on this or that? Stick with him anyway and ask why this is important to him or her. If you do, you’ll maybe learn something new and you’ll grow a bit in the process.
To learn a bit more about Friedman and maturity check out this video on YouTube.