Social media has emerged as one of the premier means of expressing opinions in contemporary society. The ability to sit behind a keyboard as reach out to countless others, out of sight and out of reach has emboldened people as never before to make their deepest thoughts known on numerous aspects of the human experience – some light and entertaining, others heavy and thought provoking. The combination of social media and the discussion of racial tensions in the United States has become a raw and uncomfortable dialogue that is testing our collective character and what we believe about ourselves as a nation in new and uncertain ways. I have witnessed an exchange of ideas, experiences and information charged with emotions that is reaching a point of testing decades long friendships and challenging long held perceptions of the broader American experience. I believe this exchange of ideas is a good thing. I also believe that taking the dialogue on race in America beyond the superficial is not only desirous, it is necessary if ultimate meaningful and sustainable progress is to be made. Nevertheless, I believe that as we plunge forward into a level of candor we’ve not experienced on such a wide scale, we must understand the dangers of this collective journey and take steps to guard our hearts as we share and to protect our relationships as we uncover truths that cannot be allowed to remain obscured behind fears of hurts the truth may expose and press on in serving each other in community in the bond of love and peace. We must protect and serve.
In our desire to better understand the racial dynamics within the United States, we each must share the truth. I have seen two sources of information used to communicate truth in most discussions on race: experience and statistics. Both sources offer tools which can assist in defining and understanding what’s going on in society. These sources represent the dynamic combinations of head and heart, intellect and passion, light and heat. Both are necessary in any discussion that seeks to discern and understand what truth is. As the facts and the feelings are experienced together, one responsibility must guide our attempts to have a dialogue, especially with friends – the responsibility to protect friendships. As we share information and receive it, we must protect ourselves by steeling our will to remain committed to one another as friends as we hear hard things. One of the truths I am attempting to lash to the walls of my heart as I discuss race is this: No matter how raw the information that I hear from another perspective and no matter how painful what I hear may be, or how unreasonable I may perceive it to be, I will not allow the personal hurt to kill my friendships. In this spirit, as I express a differing opinion, I will not intentionally engage in targeted, attacking responses but seek to communicate the “truth in love” seasoning my words “with grace”. If race is going to be discussed in a meaningful way, each of us must prepare to hear things that hurt. We all have to be prepared to discuss the hard things. We also must be prepared to do the hard work of presenting the truth in a manner that maximizes its likelihood to be heard, steering away from inflammatory language, course characterizations and incendiary language. We present facts as we see them heavily seasoned in gracious language and loving tone – The Truth in Love.
As we share, we must also continue to live among one another and to serve each other in the broader context of life. As we discuss race, the common challenges of life continue. Sicknesses, tragedies, setbacks, disappointments and deaths rage on as we dialogue on the critical issue of our national existence. Even when the sharing becomes heated to the point of disgust and anger, we must take a few steps back to pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, encourage each other and help one another as we press on through the challenging and mountainous journey of life in which we all exist as fellow travelers. We must talk about the hard things – no more pretense or surface interactions – but our hard conversations must keep the broader scope of our friendships in mind at all times, and the goal or our dialogues must not be the winning of an argument, but the pursuit of understanding and the building of community.
“Come, let us reason together.” Let us protect ourselves from the poisons that would divide us; surface interactions – vitriol-laced discussions – and let us pursue the truth in love as we honestly dialogue and lovingly sharing our hearts as we continue to serve one another, aware that we’re all literally in this together and that the value we have individually and collectively is worth the work we must exert in achieving the unity that we all so desperately desire. Let’s protect and let’s serve.
With Respect and Love,