What I Shared on Election Eve …

I was invited to share at a special election eve vigil the other night, which you can watch here:
Here’s a summary of what I was trying to say …
The Rhetoric That Frees Us
Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus said. If we want to take the exit ramp from the broad path that leads to violence and follow the narrow road that leads to peace, we will need to develop the skills of peacemaking.
Here are four of those skills that I have been learning over the years, often by taking three steps forward and two steps back …
1. The skill of differing graciously.
When we hear people say something false or harmful, it’s tempting to say, “You’re wrong!” or “You’re stupid,” which just adds to stress and causes people to dig in their heels even more in self-defense. It’s also tempting to just remain silent, which, in a sense, gives tacit permission for the harm and disinformation to continue. So instead, try something like this: “Wow. I see that differently.” We learn to define ourselves without making our neighbor defensive. We learn to speak our truth, never staying silent in the face of misinformation or harmful messages. We avoid toxic silence and toxic reactions by saying, “Wow. I see that differently.”
2. The skill of offering comfort.
When people are under stress, they behave badly, so one of the ways we can relieve stress is by offering comfort. We can do so by naming people’s stress and pain and offering empathy and understanding. If we do the opposite by saying, “Don’t be negative! Have hope! Be strong!” we may actually add to our neighbor’s stress and make it harder for our neighbor to be positive, hopeful, and strong. So we can say things like this: “We’re all carrying a lot right now. This is a hard time. I know you’re hurting. I can imagine how hard this is for you.” That kind of empathy lifts burdens and helps people act from their better self.
3. The skill of mourning and lament.
Many of us are carrying deep grief over real and threatened losses. Yet few of us find a safe place to tenderly speak of those losses. We can help others by going first – by setting the stage with our own sharing of loss. We someone asks, “How are you doing?” we can say, “I’m feeling a sense of loss today.” Often, your neighbor will ask you to share more, and you can name real or threatened losses: “I feel a loss of innocence, I feel we’re losing our norms of honesty and decency, I am afraid we’re going to lose our democracy.”  After you share, you can then say, “How about you? Are you feeling anything similar?” Your act of creating conversational space for mourning and lament will reduce the mental stress and isolation for both you and your neighbor, leaving you both less vulnerable to becoming hateful and violent and more able to make peace.
4. The skill of support and reaffirmation.
A friend and I were discussing politics and it turned into an argument. Frankly, it was ugly. When we met up a few weeks later, he said, “Every day since our argument, I have woken up feeling terrible about how I yelled at you. You’re my friend, and I really value your friendship. I’m sorry.” Those words, “I really value our friendship” were like a healing balm. We might think expressions of support like that go without saying, but they are important and needed. “I know we voted differently, but I really value you as my neighbor/coworker/cousin/friend” – imagine if millions of people say those words in the coming days. It will contribute to a more peaceful world, especially when we imagine the potential impact of opposite words.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”doesn’t mean being passive, failing to speak truth, failing to name loss, or pretending everything is fine when it isn’t — in the name of “civility.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers” means “Blessed are those who develop the skills that make for peace.”
May you and I be among the blessed movement of God’s peacemakers.