Staying in a difficult conversation . . .
We’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Aurora Colorado, and I want to reflect on something good that came from a conversation when it was fresh news. I met a young veteran of one of our recent wars in the Middle East on Facebook. (I’ll call him Paul.)
He didn’t like my comment on a friend’s post. I’d said that my compassion extended to the shooter as well as the victims and their families, because we never know what kind of pain a person must be in that would cause them to do such a thing.
Paul fired back with phrases like: “You must think (insert misinterpretation of what I said here)”; and “I bet you’re one of those (insert description with words like stupid, spoiled, ignorant, etc. here)”. I replied thoughtfully and learned a little more about him each time he offered another misinterpretation of what I’d said. His responses got a little less hateful each time.
Our exchange ended once I’d shared about my life experience and clarified what I really meant without making him wrong. I think it was when he was clear that I understood him, and when he understood that my compassion extended to him, and to all soldiers, and everyone who has suffered, that he stopped accusing and reacting. I can’t say that I know I made a difference in his life or changed the way he sees the world, but I trust that some seed was planted. That’s what I’m here to do – to trust and to plant seeds of compassion without attachment to whether they sprout and grow.
The thing I want to share here is the value of staying in a conversation until there is some version of peace and understanding - even if it can only be one-sided for the time being. When we can stay in an unpleasant conversation and stay present, and be our best, loving self, something can soften and open. A seed may be planted that will grow into beauty, harmony, and peace. And this world can really use more of that.