This past Sunday morning, my pastor spoke about the importance of choosing our words wisely. Although this is a common sermon I have heard before, it always serves as an important reminder for me that I try to take into my daily life. What we say to one another has a lasting impact even when we don’t realize it. We may think we are saying a joke or simply talking flippantly about another person, but the way in which we speak about each other—even when it isn’t done in anger—has the ability to tear down or build up. People are listening to what we say even when it isn’t something that’s being said about them.
My pastor encouraged the congregation to think through their words before speaking to the people in their lives, but he broadened this to the greater population as a whole.
He didn’t just talk about this in regards to one-on-one relationships, but discussed it in terms of the upcoming election season. He told the crowd, “we are going to do better” in regards to how we converse as we enter into a political climate tense with high emotions.
This quote stood out to me as an impactful challenge—not only for the relationships we have with our loved ones who disagree with us politically—but also for the ways in which we talk about public officials who hold values that differ from our own.
It can be easy to speak about people we don’t know as if they aren’t human beings. When we only encounter them from the other side of a screen or read about them as a prop in a news story, it can be difficult to engage with them in an empathetic way. We fail to give others the benefit of the doubt and we easily jump to conclusions based on our own preconceived notions and biases. In election cycles, it is more comfortable for us to retreat to our echo chambers of comfort instead of trying to understand one another. We believe what we want to believe about other people, especially when we don’t know them.
As we enter into another political season, let’s take into account how we speak and the ways in which we treat others. Election cycles are a time when we take the temperature of our country, so to speak. As 2020 nears, the electorate is getting ready for constant media coverage, negative stories and intense debates. In the last election, it was all too easy to fall into cheap and harsh rhetoric about strangers with whom we disagree.
This time, let’s rise to the challenge. Let’s “do better.” We certainly can.