I’m always amazed at the power of the reframe.
This morning it is raining. Heavy, thick droplets. Yesterday it rained too, like the heavens had opened up and God was pouring buckets of water on our heads. Having lived in Seattle for 15 years, where it rained non-stop for nine months every year, I normally don’t like the rain. Normally it makes me blue. But knowing that half of my country is burning up, I feel grateful for it. I wish I could package it up and send it to them.
So this week when I listen to the rain, it sounds like replenishment. Like we’re being infused with life when normally it sounds oppressive. I can see it as a gift rather than a curse. Either way, it’s just rain. How I experience it is completely different simply because of the way I’m thinking about it.
Such is the case with everything in life. If we decide someone is bad and evil, all we’ll see is bad and evil. We’ll hang out with other people who experience the person the same way and we’ll spend our time talking about how bad and evil “that” person is.
How often do we turn to someone who actually likes our perceived bad-evil-person and ask them, “What exactly is it that you like about this person?” (unless, of course, we’re dripping with sarcasm).
Never. We get so committed to the decisions we make, that we dare not risk opening our minds to a new possibility.
I can feel my own entrenchment as I type. In my mind, as I’m picturing the very few bad-evil-people I can think of in the world, I’m thinking, “Well, this person is different. This person truly IS bad and evil! If ‘they’ can’t see that, then “they’ are blind!”
Clearly my humanity outweighs my enlightenment.
Having traveled the world and worked closely with hundreds of men and women of different races, different faiths, who have grown up with different customs, I have learned first-hand, that, at our core, we’re all the same. It is unfathomable to me to dislike someone because they worship differently than I do, or love differently than me, or have a different skin color, or speak a different language.
But I also recognize that most people haven’t had this opportunity. That our natural human instinct, when we come across something or someone we don’t understand is fear and that fear loads us up on body chemicals that impede our thinking. It’s hard to see our fellow humans through a lens that is muddied by fear.
But we decide anyway.
Today I’m stepping back to examine the decisions I’ve made in my life about other people. Are they clouded by fear? Am I making my decisions based on actual behaviors or on a narrative that has been crafted to elicit a fearful reaction?
I don’t know, but I do think it’s worth examining.
In my heart-of-hearts, I wish that everyone had the chance to look at our human differences as beautiful. That our differences are our gifts to one another. That collectively we make up a gorgeous human family that hungers to be seen, accepted and loved.
I also know that I need to work on the decisions I’ve made about other people. For if I ever hope to see my vision come to pass, it must begin with me. I can’t expect others to reframe the decisions they have made if I’m not willing to do the same.
To see the human behind the fear. Behind the anger.
I’m reminding myself that seeing and condoning are two different things. How do we condemn certain behaviors and stay open to seeing the humans behind the behaviors? I wish I knew. But I do believe if we want to see change, this is the challenge we face.
My husband received an email last week from a friend of his who is battling the fires up in Oregon. His friend said something like, “While this is truly awful, our community has come together to support one another. People who believe very differently from each other are fighting side by side to put the fires out. They’re putting their lives on the line to save each others’ homes, working tirelessly to shelter, feed and help however they can. Here there is no “red and blue,” just one human being fighting to support another.”
Mine is a fiercely divided country in a fiercely divided world. Behind the division lives billions of human beings. Billions.
What would be possible if, instead of fighting each other, we could fight for one another?
As the rain continues to fall, I allow that question to truly sink in. Rain as replenishment. I imagine it reaching the roots, nurturing the soul of the earth. A reframe making way for a rebirth.
©A Thoughtful Company, LLC
Kimberly — I always know that when you reflect on something in your life – even if it’s the rain – it’s time for me to pay attention. Your narrative grabbed me by my collar and said “Sit back. Read. Think!”
I have been so focused lately on being “right,” sometimes bordering on being omniscient. I know where it’s coming from. Part of it is my difficulty in trying to understand millions of my fellow Americans, their thinking, their beliefs. “How could they….” And my understanding of history — how the world has walked this treacherous path before. I am haunted by parallels.
That said, one balancing phrase I’ve tried to keep in mind lately is “I just don’t know.” It’s not a head-shaking phrase of disbelief about people; it’s more of a neutral state of mind. For the most part, I don’t know those people with whom I disagree politically, socially, and culturally. I don’t know their history. I don’t know how they were raised, what they were taught to believe.
All I can really know is me. It is a neutral stance, and just like “not being a racist” is a neutral stance and no longer good enough, not categorizing all those with whom I disagree is only a start.
Thanks for helping me to hear the rain.
Jeff, it’s definitely a day to day work in progress for me. Somedays I’m able to be accepting and open-minded and other days I’m firmly rooted in judgement and anger. I wish it weren’t that way, but it is. But I am constantly talking myself down from my judgmental-ledge, as I recognize that it impedes any possibility of influence and I also recognize that I cannot fully understand what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes, in spite of my sincere efforts. Two things: if you haven’t read Van Jones’s book, Beyond the Messy Truth, it’s really, really good. While he looks at the world through a liberal lens, he also fully appreciates the perspectives of conservatives, which allowed me to access a more balanced way of approaching things. The other thing you might want to check out is Krista Tippet’s OnBeing podcast. It’s changed my life. It grounds me and helps me be more of the person I want to be in the world. You would love it. Hugs to you, friend! I understand your heart.
Thank you, Kimberly, for the recommendations. I will check out Van Jones. I am familiar with K.T., and listen on occasion depending on the guest. Love that she says “Screw it!” to conventional podcast wisdom that we can’t hold people’s attention for longer than 30-40 minutes. Tim Ferriss does likewise. Hugs back.
Great article Kimberly, and it would be nice if we had to fight for something, it would be together and not against each other.
It would be wonderful, Lynn! Dare to dream!
I’ve been thinking about how to reframe things a lot lately, and I find it easier to do that with rain & other natural things I cannot control, it’s so much harder when it comes to people!
This is so beautifully written, Kimberly, and it inspires me to continue this internal work. My friend Amber cautions “don’t freeze people in time.” That’s what I’ve been working hard to consider when I see or hear something that really gets my hackles up. Thank you so much for this reminder.
So do I, Sarah! Reframing with people is MUCH harder! Most frequently, I’m writing about what I’m desperately trying to do, so you, my dear beautiful friend, are not alone. This is hard work. I don’t always like what I see when I examine myself in this conversation, which leads me to want to be better. For it’s only when we can see the pain behind people’s actions, can we truly empathize and without being able to see the human behind the behaviors, we cannot hope to influence. Hugs to you!
Dear Kimberly – This is the most remarkable, revealing, real-life article I think I have ever read and read it twice. Your descriptions are so vivid. We certainly can and do pre-judge people. It could just be posture, what they’re wearing; color, religion accent.
You are so right. Disasters, earthquakes, fearsome forest fires that also envelope people’s homes. Then the rain is a blessed welcome.
Tragedy and fear does bring people together. I do love your way of describing the bad the good and the attainable peace of camaraderie. Tragedy is when people of different faiths, race, color, religion really do stand together, facing the same direction, in unity of purpose, in harmony. Never to be forgotten.
Kimberly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for revealing the true nature of who we are, and how we could reach out and spread a little kindness and solidarity.
Bless you, Kimberly
Simon – from across The Pond
You are so good to me, Simon! Any day I feel blue I need just pull up a Simon Lever comment and the sun will shine again! Thank you for your thoughtfulness and kindness. I aim to be half of the person you see in me! Hugs to you!
Wonderful article Kimberly. Hearts and minds have been hardened and closed. Fear of the unknown and anger have replaced hope. It will improve. Making an effort to have real dialogue, to listen to understand rather than respond is needed. There is more that unites us than divides us. Fear can be replaced by a simple act of kindness.
I absolutely agree, Frank! Thank you for your gracious comment. I so appreciate you joining the conversation!
Just lovely, Kimberly! As someone who has listened to people of all kinds of backgrounds, I could not agree with you more. All of us are unique, and as difficult as it may be at times, we must genuinely accept all differences and follow the mantra of ”agreeing to disagree.” Thank you for this. My next article which is still in my head tackles the vitriol encompassing our society from a different perspective with a similar theme.💖
I look forward to reading that article, Darlene. I so appreciate you and the thoughtfulness you bring to these conversations.
Thanks so much, Dennis, for sharing this piece with the world. Grateful!