If we’re not careful, we can respond in extremes. In the process, we create extreme distances between ourselves and others. Distances that don’t need to exist—at least, not to the extremes that we create.
It’s not specific to the COVID-19 crisis, or any crisis, but because it’s familiar to all of us right now, it invites examples. Over the past couple months, I’ve seen or heard, “I’m not panicking” or “I’m not letting fear get the best of me” as if anyone responding with caution is full of fear or panic. I’ve also seen or heard, “At least I care for others,” as if anyone not changing their behavior is insensitive and selfish.
Both are true in some situations, but just because someone takes cautionary action does not mean he or she is fearful or panicking. Their reasons are often measured and purposeful. And if someone refuses to take action, they might be determined to keep their lives the same, but that might be rooted more in fear than pride.
I’ve seen the same in other situations. For instance, someone who does not like to share their feelings might claim, “Well, you know her. She is a bit dramatic. Everything has to be talked about and processed.” And someone who wants to live and share deeply might claim, “Well, you know her. She’s a bit cold and shut off and really doesn’t care enough to share or listen much.” Both observations might be accurate, but, more often, they are off base.
We claim extremes about people who aren’t like us because we don’t understand, or something makes us uncomfortable, or we somehow think only one way can be right. We all lose when we can’t respectfully listen and consider other perspectives. We all lose when we become so determined it gets in the way of humility and change. We all lose when we cling to our own ways and thinking so tightly that we shut our eyes and become blind to aspects of our surroundings—and our own weaknesses.
Let’s be better than that.