A social media friend posted a photo of a U.S. national team with a couple people standing and the others kneeling. With hands across their chests, the setting was most likely during the playing of the national anthem. And the insults were flying, including comments about hoping they lose their Olympic games because no one who “hates America” should represent it yet disrespect it.
But it was all mixed up. The picture had been taken many months earlier, not on the Olympic stage. Yes, many Olympic teams, officials and individuals (from many nations) took a knee at some point before competing but not during a national anthem. Anthem don’t play before Olympic events; only when the gold medal is awarded.
I was confused. Why use a misleading photo to support our viewpoint? It reveals more about us than the people we’re trying to slam (or applaud). Building on shaky foundation causes everything we’re building to crumble. Our influence and trustworthiness erodes.
I hesitated to comment. I typed and deleted. But it stuck with me, and I decided to respond with the basic facts: The photo was not taken at the time and place as represented. But the person responded, “Don’t care where and when…just sayin’.” My goal hadn’t been to distance someone. I generally enjoy this person’s posts, tips, and humor.
My goal is not to single anyone out but, rather, shine a light on a common issue. Why misrepresent the truth—ever? Why justify ourselves because of the point we want to make? Why spew disgust, especially when we’re judging what we assume is someone else’s hate? Why not disagree with the approach someone takes while doing our best to understand his or her perspective?
I’m not addressing a specific issue with this post. The point of the social media post and comments is not the point of this post. The way we process, share, consider, and discuss is the point. We don’t have to agree on everything to live infused with respect and wisdom. We can take a stand or have a seat with someone who chooses to do the opposite. We can ask, “What is this really about?” We can seek perspectives other than ours, not to adopt and absorb, but to consider so that we’re better informed. Otherwise, we lose our ability to empathize. Empathy does not require agreement. It requires a connection, acknowledging the basic experiences of emotion, justice, and growth. Through that process, we need to seek a truth that is beyond us. We need to be willing to be truth checked. We need to be able to discern. We need to posture ourselves with humility so that we receive the truth more than we attempt to determine and drive it.