Cultivating Virtues to Heal a Fractured Nation - Part 2

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This post is the second of a three-part series the delves into six virtues I have decided to cultivate in my life in an effort to do my part toward helping heal the divisions in our nation by striving to become a better human myself. This second part of the series focuses on compassion and how we can make sure we are getting the full story to be able to better “step into another’s shoes”. It also focuses on kindness, offering a few thoughts on both kindness to self as well as to others.

 

Compassion

Compassion is having sympathy and concern for the suffering of others. Sometimes it is easy to relate to other’s misfortunes, particularly if we have been in the same situation ourselves at some point in the past. Yet at other times this requires being self-aware enough to notice when you are being judgmental and being open-minded enough to be able to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”. I don’t know about you, but this is where I still struggle, particularly if I don’t intentionally slow down enough to self-reflect on how my mind is processing.

 

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Fredrik Backman speaks to this so eloquently in his new novel Anxious People. I’ll be honest that at first as I wasn’t so sure I was going to like this book, despite how much I have admired his previous ones. Then there is this chapter early on where he begins with how we all agree that you mustn’t tell lies, steal or kill. And one by one he spins a web that has you contemplate situations where each may make sense if you allow yourself to see situations from different viewpoints. Needless to say, I ended up loving the book and would highly recommend it.

It is so important before we jump to conclusions and judge, to see the whole picture. We rarely get the whole picture from just one viewpoint, so it is particularly important when we are listening to the media these days to consider if we are getting the full story and if further fact-checking is warranted.

To put yourself in another’s shoes requires that you first understand the true facts of the situation. With the current polarity in the country and the widespread use of lying to sway public opinion, getting the facts has become increasingly difficult, yet increasingly important as well. I’ve had a tendency lately to either form an opinion before I know the full story or to shut down and withhold any emotional connection, as it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. 

In an attempt to cultivate more compassion (by not emotionally shutting down when news appears sensationalized), it is my intention to spend a little more effort getting the facts. I’ll share with you a few websites that I have bookmarked to help with this below. If you have any further thoughts or suggestions on this, I truly would love your insight.

https://www.politifact.com is a Pulitzer Prize-winning site that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others that speak in the political arena. 

https://www.factcheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” that is striving to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.

https://www.snopes.com aims to be the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource, using investigative reporting and linking and sources so that readers are empowered to do independent research and make up their own minds. 

Kindness

Thinking Kindly - Being kind begins with thinking kindly - both about yourself and others. It requires us to be mindful to stop negative self-talk as well as criticism of others. My father taught me one of my favorite ways to handle negative self-talk. When I recognize a thought that comes into my mind that is not consistent with how I want to think, I say “Cancel that” either in my head or aloud. Then I immediately re-state the thought in my head in a more positive manner, focus my attention from this positive viewpoint and refuse to entertain further negative thoughts in this area.

Speaking Kindly - Being kind also requires being mindful with our words. It requires stopping yourself before gossiping and or uttering words of unhelpful criticism. It also goes back to slowing down enough before speaking to truly listen to alternative viewpoints.

As I think about this with respect to the divisions in our country, I am reminded that even within my own extended family we often find ourselves on opposite sides of a political issue. I intend to make a concerted effort to be more open to listening to differing viewpoints within these discussions with the hope that others will seek to do so as well. And if this happens on a broader scale, perhaps eventually we will begin to find common ground from which we could begin to find solutions to some of the difficult problems we now face. 

Acting Kindly - And finally being kind, requires kind acts as well. This includes kind acts towards oneself. Women tend to be more empathetic and nurturing as a whole, but sometimes we are so busy doing this for others that we neglect to ensure we take time for nurturing ourselves as well. This is why I included a prompt in the JMB Living Journal for a daily commitment to self-care. Sometimes we need a daily reminder to consider how we can better care for our own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  

When it comes to being kind to others, I’m a big fan of random acts of kindness. I even have a book entitled Practice Random Acts of Kindness on the shelf behind my desk. The problem is that I rarely remember to pick it up and use it. So when my daughter, Justyne suggested including recommendations for acts of kindness within the journal as I was developing it, I immediately loved the idea. Here was a way to help promote keeping kindness more “top of mind”, and so the Kindness Karma area on the weekly pages of the journal was born.

As I give further attention to these two virtues this week, I’m planning to share some of my favorite random acts of kindness on my Instagram and Facebook pages this week. I hope you’ll join me in sharing yours as well, so we collectively can spread a bit more compassion and kindness in the world. Thanks for joining me here today and stay tuned for Part 3 of this series next week when I talk about the last two virtues that I am focusing on - simplicity and generosity. And in the meantime, remember to shower yourself with a little kindness and compassion too! Have an amazing week! Julie

 

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