If you're not living on a deserted island with no internet or neighbors, you probably see regular evidence of an increasingly polarized world. Countries and leaders and neighbors are lashing out at those who don't share the same beliefs. If you're caught up in the news or your own family or community drama, you know that it is exhausting, leaving you little energy for the pleasures of life. This kind of conflict weakens our creative force and immune systems.
A client recently complained about the division at his place of employment and shared that he would like to leave if he could find another job. I asked how he would change his situation if he could. Through a series of questions, his core desire was ultimately revealed. He would like to live in a world where everyone shared the same beliefs and ideas as his. He admitted that this sounded crazy and he was embarrassed by his own thoughts. I assured him that many of us have these same desires but never admit them even to ourselves. When we complain about the beliefs and actions of others, that is another way of saying that they should change and be more like us.
Each of us lives in our own world of unique values and standards, with either slight or blatant differences from our neighbors. Some people live in a world where it's a sin to behave in certain ways. In someone else's world, those same behaviors may be perfectly normal. We have laws that supersede these various worlds in an effort to protect everyone's rights. They often fall short so we keep trying. In some extreme cases, people must be removed from society because they have imposed their personal world upon others and caused harm. In most cases though, our worlds coexist rather nicely. We usually gravitate toward those who live in similar worlds because that makes it nice and easy and free of most conflict.
This is a place of safety for our egos that can cause us to forget that everyone is still living in their own world. We can visit other worlds and they can visit ours and we can usually find common ground if we put out the effort and practice compassion. I have a family member who shares some different beliefs from my own. I love this person and it would never occur to me to not see him because he thinks differently. Instead, we strive to understand each other. Sometimes a comment will lead to an hour of back and forth conversation until we reach a place of commonality. These are "aha" moments where we really get what the other person is saying and it's always worth the effort.
When we allow beliefs to divide us from another, we are choosing our desire to be right over our responsibility to be compassionate and loving. It makes little sense when in the end, we are not our thoughts or beliefs and neither are they. Those will die with our bodies, leaving no legacy or lasting change. However, we can leave behind the ways we loved unconditionally, showed compassion and respect to our fellow humans, and chose to be of service to those in need, regardless of their beliefs.
When I see polarization in action, it helps to remember that this is indeed a world of polarities. It was created as such and one extreme cannot exist without the other. Just as hot has its opposite of cold on a thermometer, everything else also has varying degrees of the same thing. When we find ourselves at odds with others, the Universe is working optimally. When we bridge those gaps and find middle ground with love and compassion, we are working optimally.
There is war and peace, dark and light, love and hate, and countless other opposites. At some point in our evolution, polarities may dissolve into the still point and we will have birthed a new kind of world and humanity. We can embody that evolution in this moment by making compassion a habit and practicing love as a response until it becomes who we are once again.