For the last few days, I have seen calls for unity – admonitions to unify. And, I’ve pondered what that means. What does it mean to come to a “state of being in full agreement”? How do we “cause people or things to be joined or brought together?
I admit, I have few answers on how this happens with our nation. The task seems daunting. Impossible.
How do you take a country full of people with a myriad of differences and get them to think the same?
I thought about marriages that dissolve because of “irreconcilable differences.” If two people who once loved one another enough to commit to marriage can separate because of the inability to agree, what are we expecting? What are we hoping for?
Then I realized, perhaps I am thinking too broadly. I am focusing on the forest, ignoring that the forest is made up of individual trees, each contributing to the beauty and functioning of the forest. Each tree, each flower, each plant, each creature, contributes in some way. That oak tree provides shelter. That insect, pollinates. That flower provides food and nourishment. Each part dependent on the other, and if not dependent – connected. If one plant catches afire, and there is nothing to extinguish it, the entire forest burns.
And, I realize, unity does not come from one person rallying the troops, standing before a group of people calling for unity. Unity happens in the trenches. One on one, face to face, life to life, family to family.
I think again about marriage. Reggie and I do not agree on everything. We don’t even expect to. That’s not unity. As male and female, we think differently. I am from Chicago, he is from Johnson City, Tennessee. I am a “thinker” and internal processor who requires time to think through how I feel about a particular situation. He is a “feeler” and is fairly ready to discuss what is on his mind (if he feels up to it). I love to spend time with people, but I need to be alone to recharge. He recharges with people.
We are different. And, our uniqueness contributes to our family, it is what makes our family – ours. We are learning to appreciate these differences, not fight against them, make fun of them, ignore them. Instead, we embrace them and we stand united (usually…ok, sometimes). That means, we have come to an agreement that in order for our family to thrive there are certain things that we both must do. I would venture to imagine that these could apply to our quest for unity during this tumultuous time in our country as well.
How to Move Towards Unity:
- Listen more than we talk (or fuss, or argue). We just talked last night about how much we have been arguing lately (real talk) , and how it is negatively affecting us as a couple, and our ability to thrive as a family.
- Commit to honest dialogue, even when it is difficult to hear or say.
- Be humble and empathetic. We have to choose to see things from another’s perspective sometimes. When I can place myself in Reggie’s shoes, I am able to empathize with the weight he must have in providing for, protecting and leading our family. It helps me be gracious and a bit more understanding. I can grieve the things that grieve him, that stress him, and if possible, find a way to relieve what I can.
- Be sacrificial in our actions and interactions. I remember realizing during a rough season in our marriage, that it was because we both thought we “deserved” what we wanted. We were not thinking about what was best for the health of our whole family, just what best served us. Short-sighted, because all of us suffered.
- Be gracious and slow to anger when something is said that we don’t like or agree with. I’ve found that when I am angry, I stop listening because I am trying to come up with my counterpoint in order to win the argument.
- Have an open mind. Not even being willing to talk, or listen, or sit in humility immediately hinders the possibility of unifying.
- Realize that you just may be wrong. Yes. You.
- Admit that you are wrong, when you discover it.
- Authentically apologize. None of that, “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you” stuff. They’ve already told you, you did.
- Forgive one another and determine a way to move forwards with mutual love, honor and respect for the fact that God created all of us. And loves all of us. No one more than the other.
We’ve got work to do.
One relationship at a time.
And I just keep going back to this verse, for those of us who are followers of Christ….
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.