Watch Your Talk

Right speech on the winning side of an election


It feels important right now to remember kindness.

Fully half the country is grieving, outraged, maybe not even willing to give up yet. It feels important to generate compassion for those millions of people who are genuinely suffering now because they believe we’ve just put a Very Bad Man in the presidency.

Remember how mean we said Trump is? How selfish and divisive? Let’s make sure we don’t mirror that now in our moment of victory. Watch your speech. Is it mean or divisive? Are we still making jokes at ‘their’ expense? If so, how does that make us any different from the man we’ve vilified all this time?

Resist the urge to relish the other side’s unhappiness, the other side’s faults. Stop scanning for examples of excessive negativity. Scan for goodness. Everywhere, not just on our side. It’s there in everyone.

Pay attention to how you talk to your friends about “them.” (I put that in quotes because that word just keeps us from realizing they are the flip side of us. We are one coin. And it’s much richer than that. We are one sphere, and like it or not, we have everything in us.)

I noticed my own tendency to laugh at, or roll my eyes at, or find juicy stories about what’s going on for some Republicans right now. For example, I couldn’t resist telling my wife the other day that Steve Bannon’s lawyer dropped him because he’d advocated violence.

What was the intent of my remark? I wanted to a) reassure myself that some lawyers have scruples (heh heh), b) show my wife that I’m up on all the latest news, c) lock arms with her in our superiority over people like Bannon, d) relish the humiliation of his situation. The list goes on and on.

None of those intentions behind my remark contributed a single molecule of value toward unifying a divided country. Zero. None of those intentions do anything to support my walking the way of the bodhisattva, either (something I claim to aspire to).

The scary thing is, this moment passed by invisibly, during breakfast. It happened without my even knowing it. There I was, behaving exactly like I’m saying we shouldn’t. That’s what makes it so insidious. I only mention this to make it clear how easy it is to do something I call “sleep talking,” how slippery the slope of our intentions is.

But I noticed it later, and that’s the good news. It helped me see how important it is to really pay attention. To remember that everyone, everyone is a human being. Everyone wants to be happy. Everyone believes what they believe. No one wants to suffer.

That’s what we all have in common. So let’s watch our talk.

And let’s do way more listening than talking. (I’ve heard that’s why God gave us two ears, but only one mouth.) I’m doing that now, best I can. Let’s all do it.

In the hour of our victory, let’s truly embody what we say is so missing in our society: decency, respect, and compassion.

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