It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Many times, competitions, especially like the recent elections, which affect us so broadly and deeply, bring out the worst in us. Because of our goal to win, we start seeing things as either being for us or against us. So any post, comment, video, news article, among others, that seems to agree with us, we automatically celebrate and share, without any thought to its validity, accuracy, and message. What if what resonated with us so well is actually untrue? And any post, comment, video, news article, that seems to NOT agree with us we attack, without any thought to its validity, accuracy, and message.
What if what they had to say actually makes a strong point? Should we miss the chance to learn something new, to see a different perspective, to be more informed simply because it wasn’t our initial position? Is it wrong to think through an opposing viewpoint? Nope. Is it bad to do so? Nope. That’s how learning happens.
Let me give a simple example. I see a kettle, I think it isn’t hot, I touch it, it hurts, then I learn it is hot. My fingers coming into contact with the heat of the kettle has informed my mind that my initial thought that the kettle wasn’t hot, is untrue, and that I shouldn’t touch it. This is a good thing of course… this ability protects us. Now if I were to get angry, “Why did that kettle burn me? That kettle shouldn’t be hot! I should be able to touch it!”, we stress over something we can just learn from. Or if I were in denial, “That kettle wasn’t hot! My fingers are wrong for feeling pain!”, then we miss a simple chance to learn.
The point is this: We learn many times through having an assumption, testing it against proven standards, and checking whether our assumptions were right. It’s that simple. So don’t be so quick to react to another viewpoint. Test it.
There’s a great quote by Aristotle, “It’s the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” This means, the ability to consider concepts and ideas without jumping to conclusions about it, the ability to test it separate from how we feel or what others think, is the mark of someone who has more developed mental abilities. I think this skill is incredibly important in a Democracy because there will be swirling viewpoints that may or may not agree with us, and we need to be open-minded enough to consider them, test them, and respond in a way that is in line with what we value.
Otherwise, we will just keep reacting, even if our reaction is irrelevant to the thing we’re reacting to.
For example, I’ve been posting on the elections with mainly these 4 themes:
- That we should understand the Democratic process and participate
- That we should base our decision on sound principles, not simply because of “my dream” or my reaction to circumstances
- That I personally put an extremely high value on the life and freedom of every individual, and that I value life and freedom even more than the promise of security and comfort, that I cannot call Christian what makes so cheap what Christ made valuable.
- That I am undecided about who to vote for President
When you look at the 4 themes, not one of them promotes a certain candidate, not one of them goes into specific issues of candidates, not one of them uplifts one interest group over another. Instead, each point encourages people to be active, to be principled, and to value human life.
What matters most…
Many times in my life, I’ve found that circumstances can be overwhelming. And it’s during these periods of high tension, high drama, and high stakes, that we learn about the ability to “order our loves” or to prioritize what is MOST important over what is less important among a range of important things.
After I write this article, I have scheduled my day to spend time with Yasmin, get high impact work done, workout, update the wedding budget, and read and pray. These are the priorities of today. But should along the way, as I go about my business, I find a man in great need of a Good Samaritan, I must have the ability to order my loves, the ability to set aside what is important for something MORE important, and then go through my hierarchy again.
I find this very difficult because many times it’s easier to work on less important things, and the important things are many times more challenging, requiring more maturity, more time, more study, more adversity. But I need to prioritize them because if I don’t, important things will suffer.
For me, regarding these elections, the MOST important thing, is what is MOST important in everything: It’s to please God through this. And God looks at my heart. Ultimately, He won’t hold me accountable for whether who I voted won. He will ask, “Did you love me and love others with the way you approached this election? Did you love me by using my Word to inform your choice? Or did you love yourself by using your choice to interpret my Word? Did you love others, as defined as life-laying love, because I seek ALL men to come to me, with the way you participated? Or did you seek your own agenda, the assuage of your own fears, and the achievement of your dreams over the legitimacy of the principles of your constitution, the document which defines your governing authority, which I told you to honor?”
Because ultimately, more than who wins, what is more important, is who we become as a nation, and who we individually become through this exercise.
These small efforts to do my part to fulfill a hope that someday we will become a nation that is active in community, that values every human life, not just our own happiness, that appreciate and cultivate our freedom, that make decisions on principles, and have the intelligence to consider and override whatever initial emotion or opinion, to embrace truth.