One of the communication tools my wife and I learned during our premarital counseling was to ask two questions to each other at the end of the day.
- What were you most satisfied with (in the context of the relationship)?
- What were you most dissatisfied with?
With each question, we would follow up with how that particular thing made us feel. For example, I might answer “I was most satisfied when you offered to do the dishes after dinner,” and follow up with “because it made me feel loved.” For the second question, I might answer “I was most dissatisfied when you didn’t text me when you were coming home,” and follow up with “because I felt like I was unimportant.” At first the exercise felt quite awkward and rigid. The questions felt unnecessarily structured. Why did I have to explain my feelings in addition to answering the questions? Surely we were close enough to anticipate what the other person felt about certain actions? And don’t couples naturally learn how to do gauge each other’s thoughts and feelings without answering cookie cutter questions?
But it stuck with us. Even though I still cringe as I wait for the answer for the dissatisfaction question, I look forward to asking these questions because nothing is worse than silence and assumptions when it comes down to relationships. It’s unbelievable how much is missed when our feelings are not put into words and how far down the rabbit hole our minds can take us when we start guessing and assuming what other people are thinking.
Recently our nation has been stunned by devastating events one after another: deaths of two black men from being shot by police officers (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile) followed by attacks and subsequent deaths of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, Brad Garafola).
There are so many reasons for all of us to speak up. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are names added to a growing list of black citizens being shot and killed by police officers. The senseless killing of police officers serve absolutely no purpose in bringing justice to communities and systems we live in. Yet there are other reasons that make us hesitant to speak our minds. Perhaps you don’t want to talk on Facebook about serious matters such as these. Perhaps you’re surrounded by people who are like-minded and have nothing to really discuss. Perhaps you don’t entirely agree with the views of various people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps you can’t relate to the outrage expressed by black communities. Perhaps you think events and news are being cherry-picked to support an argument. I won’t delve more into these reasons due to the fact that they are numerous and difficult to generalize, but I think right now it is enough to say that those reasons to be hesitant about speaking our minds are very valid.
But I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: despite our reasons for staying silent being valid, let’s not stay silent. These recent tragedies represent problems of racial injustice, poverty, mental health, and more. But even more broadly, I think they represent deep-seated problems of relationships and trust between people, neighborhoods, and communities. So whether you agree with Black Lives Matter movement or not, speak your mind no matter how confused and jumbled it may be. Let’s take the time to crystallize our thoughts and feelings so that we’re not left having to guess and assume things about our thoughts and relationships with each other. Let’s be sincere, respectful, and aware of each other’s hesitations and leanings. And when we encounter frustrating biases and hateful rhetoric, take two steps back before we lay out what we know and believe, because like a fellow author said in his Kairos piece last month, we should try to be about how we say things than what we are saying. I’ll start here and lay out some of my thoughts here:
– I believe Black lives matter.
– I think while some cases of police shooting black civilians and their judicial outcomes have clearly shown systemic racial injustice, some cases have not.
– I don’t want to talk about BLM movement on social media because it feels fruitless and attention-seeking (yes, this is quite ironic since I am posting on a blog that is mainly accessed through Facebook)
– I feel a strange disconnect with the BLM movement because I sometimes don’t feel the same outrage that others express.
– I know that because I’m not black, I have the option of saying “this is not my problem.” This is by far the easiest path for me to take, and I struggle with that fact.
Dear friends, I’m unsure how to end this piece. As I’m writing this piece and rereading it over and over again, it seems so ramble-y, hopelessly idealistic and inadequate to address anything significant about the current flow of events. I also hate preachy things and this sounds completely preachy. I hope you’ll forgive me for adding to the myriad of voices out there telling us what to think and what to do, and I hope what I’ve written resonates with something in your lives. I hope change comes, in the form of more thriving communities, more justice in our systems, and intelligent leaders with nuanced perspectives. I hope God’s goodness will trump the sins of our hands. With that said, I will leave you with this quote that I think captures our situation well:
At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions […] We do not want the unity of grief, nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection, and high purpose.
– George W. Bush, at Dallas Memorial Service 7/12/16