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Friday, September 11, 2020

Five Steps to Break Down Separation | by Bronwen Mayer Henry

Navigating life and relationships in the best of times is complicated. With COVID-19 and the divisiveness of an upcoming election, many of us are thinking, “Woah, how do I get through these next few months?”


We have a few options. One, we can never get out of bed. Two, we can go to ‘battle’ for our views and be frustrated. Or three, we can use this time to intentionally build skills to help our relationships in the short and long term. As co-facilitator of the Passport to Understanding Online, I have learned (and share with participants) five approaches that can significantly alter the way you interact with people with different views, beliefs, and backgrounds than you. These five approaches are useful with close family and friends as well as people new to your life.

 

  

Be Curious

Interact with others with the conviction that you have something to learn from them. Ask questions that invite the other to tell you stories, and make them want to share their experiences with you, instead of using judgmental questions like “Why in the world would you think…?” Try, “What is it like for you…?”

 

Venture Out 

How can we intentionally venture into new spaces? Whether in person or online, what new views and ideas can we learn from? Though in some ways this is a very isolating time, in other ways it is a time with more access to different experiences around the world than ever before. We can visit the Bahai house of worship in Illinois, attend a high holy day service at the Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Center City Philadelphia, or attend a Friday prayer service at a mosque in Washington DC, without getting on a bus or in the car. In some ways, our ability to venture out is limitless.

 

Welcome In 

We often think of welcoming in through hospitality around food and comfort. But what about welcoming in new ideas? 

 

Stand Tall 

What does it mean to stand tall? We are challenged to finding a way to inhabit our own ideas while being curious, humble and open to others. This is an artful way of living that takes time and intention. Former surgeon general Vivek Murthy articulates this: “Listening inwardly and learning from our own stories, we see that we are in need not so much of experts to define our way, as of our own clear and direct inner attunement.” 

 

Stand With 

How can we be an ally and stand with others? This is a pressing question for our times, one that invites preparedness and spontaneity. By gathering in community and practicing how to stand with others in challenging moments, we develop more capacity to show up for others. 


How do we do this when many of us are limiting outings and activities, may have homogenous social circles, and we are already exhausted by the demands of life? 

This is how it is done: through intentional relationship building, with time, and through building trust.

 


 

These five themes of our ongoing series, the Passport to Understanding Online invite each of us to go deeper. Are you ready? Want to practice in diverse community? Looking for accountability and support? Join us for six weeks. There is a great deal of hope available in the world, and it needs to be cultivated through thoughtful engagement with people of all viewpoints.


“The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation...speaking our fears, listening to the fear of others, and in sharing vulnerabilities discovering a genesis of hope.” - Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. 


I am so grateful to be a co-facilitator for such practical and enriching work. It truly is through the conversations that we are changed and create space for change. I hope you will consider joining us for our next offering, starting September 23rd.



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