"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." -Desmond Tutu
This quote seems fitting for our world today, when we find ourselves intensely interdependent on each other, our lives interweaving and entangling to equal one imperfect, messy, beautiful human existence.
Just like necklace chains and long hair and anything else that gets tangled among itself, we have to gently tease apart each knot with patience if we want to move forward into a world of more inclusivity and positivity while supporting each other at the same time. The catch? It starts with us. And it starts with all of us. We all need each other. We can’t wait for others to do the work for us, we can’t assume pieces will fall into place and we’ll passively return to our world of community and safety, we can’t allow ourselves to collectively be the victims of circumstance. We have the ability to approach these tangles and work through them ourselves, to untangle our present and create a more beautiful future while honoring each other’s humanity and role in our world and the ways in which we need each other.
Untangling requires several things:
Willingness to listen - This article about why we should strive to understand others’ points of view explains that “asking with an open mind is one of the most powerful things you can do to getting on the same level with another person.” Asking what, exactly? How do you approach someone you disagree with and decrease the potential for defensiveness and verbal combativeness? One of the best ideas from the article suggests trying a statement like, “I really don’t agree with your point, and I’m interested in expanding my understanding. Please explain what I’m missing, from where you stand.” Our willingness to listen is one of the first offerings we can make to reach our goal of untangling. It represents the act of showing respect for our fellow humans’ points of view and allowing them to feel seen and heard, which is what we all need and deserve.
Openness to learn - With listening comes being open to learning from what other people have to say and their viewpoints. Listening will do very little good if we don’t have open minds and open hearts to actually take in what is being shared with us. Being open to learning about opinions and beliefs that differ from ours is a sentiment we can all reach if we put our minds to it and decide enhancing our knowledge of things we may not be fully versed on is important to us. This is a personal choice, and one that can make a huge impact in our world and highlight how much we value other humans and their views of situations that may not be aligned with ours. This HuffPost article reminds us that there are always two sides to every story, for example, while fighting for social justice, we’re also watching police officers resign by the hundreds. What happens when the police leave? In some cities, certain types of police calls are now being handled by social workers, unarmed social workers entering dangerous situations such as domestic violence calls. Social workers are trained to verbally de-escalate, but they are not trained for the moment when the family disturbances turn physical. There is a need that police have been filling for our country for hundreds of years, what happens now? If we can remind ourselves that there are always two sides to the story, we can approach both sides with the understanding that we are each human beings seeing the same event or challenge through different lenses.
Awareness - Awareness is defined in Wikipedia as the state of being conscious of something. The awareness we need in order to untangle our present is awareness of ourselves; of the ways in which we contribute to the hardships, and of the ways we can choose to be an agent for positive change in the world. Once we become aware of the ways in which we’re contributing to the challenges, we empower ourselves with awareness of the ways in which we can change and contribute more positively. As the saying goes, we can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. If we start with ourselves and become aware of how we may be part of the problem, we can serve our interdependence in a positive way by in turn finding awareness around how to go about making necessary changes to society as a whole.
Readiness to change - Our readiness to change opens us up to a whole new world where we can be flexible in our beliefs and opinions while staying true to our values. This is an asset in the quest to untangle ourselves from the web we’ve woven; the ability to shift into something that works better than what was maybe not working for us before. The ability to be adaptive. The ability to be the ones who welcome change instead of resist it. The ability to be the ones who depend on and honor each other simultaneously. Only we are in charge of which version of ourselves we bring to the world each day: one that is accepting of others, open-minded, and gives the world energy for positive change, or one that stays entangled, waiting on the stars to align and do the work for us.
When we incorporate these things into our everyday lives, we’ll find we become a part of the solution to the challenges the world is facing. Many of us may be conditioned to think this isn’t even possible, that we’re only “one person,” how can we make a difference?
Imagine if we all, as individuals, took the approach of acknowledging, listening, learning, being aware of our role, and being ready to change. What would that look like collectively? It would look like an unweaving. An untangling. An act of unfucking ourselves. Of untying ourselves from the intertwined knot we’ve created where divisiveness has become more prominent than community. But this requires everybody. It requires all of us to pull together, knowing that each of us, as “only one person,” add up to a collective number of humans working to change the world and leave a more positive imprint on it. We all need each other.
As we come together, we will begin to notice a shift. We will begin to notice anger and resentment falling back to be replaced with respect and acceptance. We will notice less tension, more understanding, and a feeling of connectedness. This is where it begins, when we notice the shift in how we exist in the world becoming more beautiful and reflective of inclusivity. We have the ability to produce this outcome. And we have the responsibility to leave this outcome behind for those generations who come after us.
Ask yourself what part of listening, learning, awareness, and readiness-to-change you can work on today. Start with small steps and allow yourself to slowly lean into this approach. Smaller steps are proven to create longer-lasting change, so spend some time really implementing each piece as you become an empowered, knowledgeable part of the experience of the human race.