“Everything you thought was true
Look at what it's done for you
You scream into the sky
In due time, in due time.”
–Noah Kahan, Hallelujah
Over the past year, I’ve struggled with some of the opinions expressed by people I’ve known and cared about for many years. The stances these individuals take on controversial issues plaguing our country continue to surprise and dishearten me. When I hear these differing views and opinions on deeply important issues, I feel anger rise up within me and the urge to cut ties. This reaction is not loving or unifying. It is not healthy or helpful. As much as I remind myself they are entitled to their opinion as much as I am, I still feel ill will. My unloving reaction to a friend or family member's differing opinion is something I’ve wanted to change, but I haven’t known how … until recently.
It was while I was venting to my teenage daughter about an aggressive viewpoint expressed by a close friend that I received the guidance I’ve been searching for.
My 14-year-old daughter said, “Your friend doesn’t know what you know. She has not had the same experiences you have.” Then Natalie told me what she did when a classmate made a political statement that hurt and offended a group of students. She reached out to one of the alienated people so she would know my daughter was with her. My daughter could tell by the person’s reaction and the end result that her loving action had been a helpful one.
My daughter went on to say, “I could argue with someone about their opinion – which probably won’t change anything – or I could do something good. And that DOES change things.”
Basically, one student’s divisive action became my daughter’s cue to do the opposite – to unify … to include … to stand beside.
I immediately thought of William James, the father of American psychology, who said, “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”
Natalie and Dr. James helped me realize I was allowing my negative feelings to put me in a place of inaction—with the possibility of making the situation even worse. With their help, I am in the process of adopting a healthier and more helpful reaction to opinions and views that upset me. I call it: Cue to Love.
It looks like this:
Another person’s closemindedness is my cue to be curious instead of defensive.
Another person’s shaming language is my cue to speak words of acceptance.
Another person’s hostility is my cue to be a peacemaker.
Another person’s arrogance is my cue to gain understanding.
Another person’s quick-to-judge attitude is my cue to remember we’re more alike than different.
Another person’s vitriol towards a group of people is my cue to love all in abundance.
It's easy to see how accepting cues to love when we feel most unloving is helpful to the world as a whole, but taking these cues greatly benefit us at a personal level. One of my favorite enlightenment authors, Marianne Williamson writes, “Growth comes from focusing on our highest lessons, not someone else’s.”
Each time I use my Cue to Love, this is what I find:
The people I most disagree with provide my greatest opportunities for growth.
The people I find most difficult to love stretch me to be my most loving self.
The people I find most challenging help me face my biggest obstacles to becoming who I most want to be.
I could argue with these people about their opinion or cut off communication, but that leaves little chance for progress, growth, and peace. Instead, I will take my daughter’s lead, and use their divisive stance as a cue to love.
In just a matter of days, I've been given great opportunity. With strong opinions flying on mass shootings, election results, aiding natural disasters, and political decisions that impact many, I’ve had many cues to love. Instead of feeling my blood boil by the opinions of some, I have been inspired to act with love.
I sent several care packages to people I’ve never met who needed lifting.
I offered an overdue apology to my husband.
I brainstormed fundraising ideas for homeless cats.
I baked cookies with my daughter and took them to a neighbor.
I gave some furniture to a family in need.
I supported a small, local business owner.
I smiled warmly at every person I passed on the street.
As I experienced a frustrating political discussion with someone I care deeply about the other night, I kept reminding myself this discussion was my cue to love.
That’s when I saw the same maintenance worker I’d seen three hours earlier. I’d noticed how sad and tired he looked as he picked up other people’s empty food containers and mess. It was now almost eleven o’clock, and he was cleaning the long corridor. I walked up with a smile and said, “I really appreciate your hard work and how clean you keep everything around here.”
The man’s eyebrows raised to the middle of his forehead and the corners of his mouth lifted into a radiant smile. Placing one hand over his heart, the man accepted my small cash tip with his other hand.
“Wow. Thank you,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Have a wonderful night, ma’am.”
I walked away feeling tears forming in my own eyes. That is when I experienced the most hopeful epiphany of all:
My job is not to change the opinions of those hurting people with their views. My job is to change the view of the world for one hurting person using love.
Think through this scenario with me for a moment:
A person is alienated by the shaming words of someone while riding on the subway. He proceeds through his day, feeling alone, devalued, and perhaps even scared.
If kindness, love, or acceptance is the VERY NEXT THING this hurting person encounters, his view of the world instantly changes. The whole world is suddenly not against him. The world is suddenly a bit more hopeful.
I would want that for my unique child.
I would want that for my aging parent.
I would want that for my grieving brother.
I would want that for my exiled sister.
I would want that for you.
I would want that for me.
I’m done feeling angry, bitter, and hopeless when someone shares a polarizing viewpoint. That is now my cue to love. Because an act of love at the precise moment it’s needed can literally change the world.
If you need proof, simply look for your brother – the one with sad eyes and hunched shoulders. Watch what happens when you let him know you see him and you celebrate his existence. It’s enough to make HOPE pulse through your veins, and that’s so much better than the alterative.
My friends of the Hands Free Revolution, last week a dear reader left this comment on one of my Facebook posts: “I wish I could just inject your life/wisdom into myself. Every piece I read of yours I think, THAT, THAT is the person I want to be. And then I'm still negative and grumpy and exasperated all day. I need your essence in something stronger than written words. Maybe pill form?”
My response to her brought a flood of emails to my inbox. I wrote: “I think I have something that will help! I have been working diligently on something for six months and can’t wait to bring it to our community. It is my first online course where I will be basically coming right into your home (through short videos) and guiding you step-by-step through the process I used to get from where I was (critical, hopeless, unfulfilled, distracted) to being a present and joyful participant of my life. Sometimes the reading of the words are not enough and hand-in-hand guidance is needed!”
I then provided my email address so she could be placed on the waitlist. Well, the response was so profound that I wanted to make sure everyone who wanted to could sign up to be notified when registration for the course opens in January. You can do that below or email me at email@example.com. Thank you so much for being part of this community. Together there is hope!
Thank you so much for speaking to my heart (again 💜) During this season of giving thanks, I’m so thankful that your words come to me exactly when I need them.
Rachel Stafford says
I appreciate this, Cari. Thank you for letting me know.
Leslie Swathwood says
Another post that literally touches my soul and my heart. Your writing continues to inspire and bring me needed joy, peace and advice.
And I cannot wait for your online course!!!!! SO EXCITED! 😀 😀 <3 <3 xoxoxo
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, dear friend!!! I am SO thrilled we will be in the course together! You are going love it and the little supportive community we will create through it!
Your daughter’s wisdom is incredible and timely! I love that she not only knows what to do, but that she is able to put it into practice too! I’ve been working on this for a long time, and am generally good at doing it with most people, but the insight you shared today will help me reach out to my husband better — he tends to view life very negatively and I have struggled for a long time to not react negatively myself. Thank you for some very specific examples that give me vision and hope.
I hope someday your realize how much your own example has inspired your daughters — I’m sure you feel inspired by them too, but I am a firm believer that our children most often reflect values they have been taught. You are a powerful example to them of changing and growing and LOVING! You are changing the world — and your beautiful daughters are living proof of that 🙂
Rachel Stafford says
This is so kind of you to say, and I will take this to heart. It lifted me up. Love, Rachel
Thank you for the reminder about the importance of responding with positive action, and for the examples of how you bring this into your life. I am deeply affected by the same tendency toward ill will that you describe, and have found myself alarmed at how my circle has constricted in recent months . But I disagree that it’s unloving to cut ties. People are entitled to their opinions but I am under no obligation to let them into my space. Limiting exposure can be a very healthy choice, and a tremendous act of self love.
Rachel Stafford says
This is a very good point you raise, Carole. Thank you for sharing that important perspective. With love and gratitude, RMS
Yes! There is one person in my life who I just need to take a break from right now and I’ve made peace with that. No confrontation, no big Ending of Things, just quiet avoidance. Because, as your precious daughter knows, arguing doesn’t change people when it comes to their political stance.
Instead, I have come to realize that I really need to get educated about certain things that I never knew I never knew. I’m reading articles and blog posts by people who do not look or live like I do. I’m making more of a point to have friendly conversation with people who are not like me. I’m being extra mindful of the messages I send to my children about politics, culture, and differences. I’m sad that I’ve had to ghost my friend just to stay sane, but I feel better about how I’m thinking about and behaving towards others.
Hi Rachel. I love this post – it really resonated with me. For a while now I’ve been working on stopping negative reactions/ words/ thoughts towards others but you take it further with your Cues to Love, which I will now embrace. It’s true that the greatest opportunities for personal growth occur when people and circumstance are more difficult to deal with. If everything was easy we wouldn’t learn anything (something which I occasionally have to remind myself of !!) Your story about your interaction with the maintenance worker was very touching. One of my mottos is to ‘never let a kind word go unsaid’, and your experience shows how valuable this can be to others.
Wow. This is amazing. Incredible. Wonderful. Beautiful. You are speaking my language. Thank you for sharing your heart and intentionally choosing the most powerful option there is: LOVE.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Abby. I love your heart.
Laurie Stone says
What a cool person your daughter is. Sounds like she’s learned a lot from her mom. I suffer the same problem when I hear opinions that anger me. I truly can’t see how someone can support certain ideas or politicians. But you’re right. Its better to practice acceptance, the very virtues we want to spread, then intolerance, which only leads to more tension.
Thank you for this! Wonderful advice and very timely!
Sam H says
Wonderful post. Brought tears to my eyes – you are seen, and you are appreciated!
If this country is ever going to get back to civil discourse, we need more people on both sides to do this. Thank you for writing this. I will try your daughter’s suggestion. I have also taken to regularly asking myself if I may be wrong about my viewpoints. I regularly seek out facts and opinions on the other side, and I also challenge people on mine. It’s very enlightening. I deal with facts easily, but it’s the emotions that throw me.
Thank you for your perspective. I’ve got all three of your books, and your blog is the only one that I read now. I’ve cast off the others. Yours is the most genuine. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Susan. This means a great deal to me. SO much love to you!