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In These Divisive Times, Let’s Find a Way to Connect   

“Love is wise; hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance.” – Bertrand Russell

Those people are all criminals.

We men are under attack.

The entire party clearly has no respect or regard for women.

They hate freedom and are trying to change our way of life.

If you don’t agree with me, I don’t have time for you.

Red Sox fans are all idiots. Every single one of them.

You f’ing people are why I hate this airline!

Whoa! Why the anger this morning, O’Leary?

My friends, the quotes of fury listed above aren’t from me. Rather, these quotes are but a small sample of several dozen incredibly derogatory sentences I heard this past week. Some were shared online, others on television, a couple to my face, and the final one from the person in line in front of me at the airline ticket counter.

Yes, I recognize there are significant differences, divisions and challenges in our country and great tension in our political system. Yes, I understand that playoff baseball brings out the competitive spirit in lots of us. And yes, I know that having a flight delayed several hours can be unpleasant.

However, these things don’t need to bring out the worst of us.

So, how do we begin pivoting the conversation in the room from being inflammatory, accusatory, and divisive into one that actually connects, collaborates and begins to heal? 

James Patrick Kinney’s Poem Illustrates What Happens When We’re Divided

I could share today about the need to courageously build more bridges, to vulnerably participate in circles beyond our own, to intently listen to another’s perspective with the desire to understand, and the critical need to refuse the urge to argue back, prove a point, win a battle, but lose a war.

But as you enter into this day, certain to not only face challenges, but individuals within your family, organization, and community diametrically opposed to your opinions, your beliefs, and your convictions, instead consider the value of modeling what you hope to see from others. Perhaps the best way to move forward in divided times is to lovingly engage those with whom we disagree, or else we may face the consequences put forward in one of my favorite poems by James Patrick Kinney, entitled “The Cold Within.”

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold.
Each possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
But the first one held hers back.
For, of the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next one looked across the way
Saw one not of his church,
And could not bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich.

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of wealth he had in store,
And keeping all that he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For he saw in his stick of wood
A chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving just to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

Their sticks held tight in death’s stilled hands
Was proof enough of sin;
They did not die from cold without…
They died from cold within.


(I thought of this poem during my most recent Live Inspired Podcast interview with the remarkable Brené Brown. We talked of her upbringing, her journey to where she is today, and the intense anxiety she felt before her first TED talk – yes, the one that has been viewed more than 30 million times! We also discussed courage, vulnerability and the need within our communities to come together, to empathize more fully and to dare more greatly. It is an awesome conversation with one of my absolute heroes. Check it out here.)

Inspired Leaders Model the Change They Wish to See in Others

My friend, perhaps it’s time we finally heed the advice put forward decades ago by Bertrand Russell. Let’s live in an interconnected world, where we love one another, tolerate one another and respect the differences in opinions, beliefs, and convictions that exist among us.

But don’t wait for those we disagree with in our families, businesses or society to change first. Inspired leadership has always been about modeling the change we seek and having the courage to throw our log into the dying fire first.

Amazingly, not only will it warm the room for awhile, it will encourage others to do likewise.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

This article was originally published on #1 National Bestselling Author of ON FIRE and Inspirational Speaker John O’Leary’s Monday Motivation blog. John inspires the R.L. Thomas Service, Inc. and we’re honored to share his inspiration with you! Get his Monday Motivation in your inbox here and enjoy his daily inspiration on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.


You can see all of John’s Monday Motivation posts here:

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