Values That Can Move Us Forward
The protests in St. Louis in mid-September of 2017 got me thinking more about why there is so much divisiveness in our society, and what we can do to minimize it. There are a handful of words that help address these concerns. They are reason, emotion, faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and trust.
First, I believe protests in recent memory have been mostly ineffective because emotion has overcome reason. The signs, words and actions of the extreme among protest groups are the root cause of this failure. It's shameful since there are some valid arguments to be made by protestors, or at the very least, legitimate concerns and objectives that should be both acknowledged and acted upon by those in a position to affect positive changes. However, since there are enough people in these groups that act purely on emotion, and won't listen at all to reason, little lasting positive outcomes arise from protests. In fact, some of these "rogue elements" of the group clearly go beyond protesting to committing criminal acts against innocent bystanders, the police, businesses, and the community at large. Can you think of a time when this approach resulted in any sustainable, positive change? What can be done to affect such change?
This is where faith, hope, and love come in. When I talk of faith, I don't necessarily mean this in a religious way. Personally, my faith is centered on God. However, humans have the capacity for faith simply in the inherent goodness of others or, generally speaking, faith in a higher power. Without such a faith, I believe we would have no motivation to do what is necessary to make societal change for good. But faith alone won't get us there.
There are indicators all around us that the lack of progress on fixing societal infighting has eroded hope for many. Hope, though, is essential for us to solve this problem. This is so because we are imperfect beings, not gods. If we don't have hope, all our individual flaws and those of society at large will eventually plunge us into despair and paralyze us so we can't ever take the actions needed to tackle our weighty issues. Hope then serves as potential energy inside us, to give us a fighting chance in the great struggles of life. I see hope as the bridge that leads us from faith to love.
My faith teaches me that the greatest of God's gifts is love. My experiences in life so far have proven this true. Without the love of my wife, I may very well not be alive today, as she helped me overcome a major illness. So I've seen the power of love (Huey Lewis and the News got that right!). Once we can love ourselves, love our families and friends, and take it to the next level by loving strangers and even our enemies, then we can effectively work together to resolve our differences.
Finally, armed with faith, hope, and love, we have the ability to forgive those who've wronged us, directly or indirectly. With that forgiveness, we can then build trust in one another. Forces that go to battle rely heavily on trust—having each other's back, which is so vital to mission success. Likewise, for us to have a shot at solving societal problems, we must have each other's back. So faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and trust then naturally lead to the ability to favor reason over emotion, and may be our only hope at saving the soul of our great nation.
Joe is an Air Force veteran, husband of 28 years, and father of 4 children. He lives in Belleville, IL.