Yesterday, we discussed the need to reach across what divides us and find things we have in common.
Today, let’s take that a step further: “Can’t we all just love one another?”
Seriously, that’s what conservative columnist David Brooks suggested in “How to Engage a Fanatic” last month, though he also admits it’s not always easy. (He also extends credit to Stephen L. Carter’s 1998 book “Civility.”)
To be clear, he writes about more than an easy-going, “I love everyone” attitude. No, not simply saying it but doing something. A reminder, we’re talking about loving fanatics, which most of us only use to describe zealots whose opinions are considerably different from ours.
Listen, truly listen, even if the fanatic is saying repugnant things. Listen, ask honest questions, rephrase what you heard, and, “Show some ultimate care for their destiny and soul.”
(Worth noting, he acknowledged there are people with whom you cannot have a civil conversation, including those who simply will not participate, those who refuse to accept facts, and people who cling to outrageous tenets such as racism.)
He gives three general reasons/benefits for loving fanatics. He expands on each in his column, but we can summarize them as (1) to protect yourself from your own bitterness; (2) many fanatics are wounded people for whom a listener is a gift; and (3) it’s good for the country.
If you’ve cruised around social media much the last couple of years, this may seem impossible, but the potential benefits speak for themselves.
Three final observations: You do not have to abandon your principles or beliefs. You don’t have to like someone to love them. And expect this to be difficult to execute.