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Blessed Are the Curious For They Shall Have Adventures

Updated: Jun 6

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies...Abraham Lincoln.

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand - Mark 3:25, NRSV

At our Cashmere community meal Thursday, many wanted to discuss the news of the day, but were tentative.  Yes, it was about THE trial and verdict. One person did ask me rhetorically and gloomily before we entered the community meal, "Well what do you think of our justice system now?" After all had left the meal and we were cleaning up, another joyfully exclaimed, "Did you hear the verdict? It proves that in America no one is above the law."

You’d never guess that according to Pew Polls most Americans are exhausted even hearing about politics. Yet we are cautious - expressing our opinions privately.  We don’t know what certain events or even words or symbols may mean to someone else. This not-knowing causes distrust and isolation and sorting and staying in our siloes.

I want to build bridges, community, and trust with our neighbors. Toward that end, I received a certification offered by a nonpartisan group called Braver Angels. Their aim is to do just that – build bridges and unite us again as Americans. 

They offer three quick tips which seem good for all relationship-building.

1)      Be curious. We can, according to Braver Angels, still have rewarding, productive political conversations even when we disagree on the facts. And it greatly helps to start by getting an accurate understanding of what the other person believes and how they came to their belief. What’s their story? (Stay away from “why” questions which puts people on the defensive).

2)      Use “I” talk. All of us are using our own sources of information and experience to come up with our opinions. Get rid of “truth” statements like “this is the way it is" (or if you really want to know the truth watch Fox news or CNN or PBS)  Instead say, this is what I believe or understand.  Stay away from characterizing what others believe, stay in your own lane with your own experience.

3)      Find some area of agreement. Make it a priority.  Even a little area of agreement can soften the whole encounter.  If you’re like me, it’s hard not to point out all the holes in the other’s perspective – the danger of their perspective, but then the conversation becomes an escalating tit-for-tat back and forth. It’s not going to do anything to bridge the divide and create community.


Of course, it helps if we have a few good social skills like being able to really listen to another person and to acknowledge and paraphrase what we have heard. And it’s perfectly fine and valuable, in my opinion, to ask (at some point) if the other person would want to hear our own perspective…and then,  be prepared to give it using “I” talk and our own experience, backstory, values, fears, longings, and personal understandings.

A book which many seem to be reading right now is by Monica Guzman from Braver Angels, I Never Thought of It That Way. What makes Guzman particularly interesting is that she lives in Seattle, a hugely blue area, but she has immigrant parents whom she loves and can't understand why they support Trump. She shares insightful stories particularly of her own conversations with her family and useful techniques which helped her better understand their position. She writes, I believe it's true, that the biggest tool we can use if we want to have bridging conversations is our natural curiosity – free of preconceptions. I resonated with this image and the sentiment it expresses which I saw on Guzman’s Facebook. Blessed Are The Curious For They Shall Have Adventures followed by a red, white, and blue feather used as an exclamation mark.

Guzman shares toward the end of the book values research by social psychologist Shalom Schwartz. What she points out using his research, and she’s not the first, is that we - all of us from around the world, consider 10 things important as human beings. We may, however, at different times in our lives, or at different times in the life of our country, consider some more important than others. It helps me to remember that we all, no matter where we are on the political spectrum, hold these 10 values in common though their order may differ. We can be curious about our values and how we order them as well (more in depth information on values at the end of the blog.)

I will be doing a workshop on Sunday, June 23rd at 11:00 at the Cashmere Community Church.  Wish me luck. It’s faith based.  After all, Christians do have that very, very clear commandment to love one another…which we still seem to be working on after two thousand years. My priority will be to help us be curious, become aware of, and work with what Braver Angels call “our inner polarizer.” 

It’s part of our compassion practice to be mindful, self-aware.  Part of that self-awareness is noticing our judgments and the stories we are telling ourselves about others which separate and polarize us and cause us to suffer. We can use mindfulness to consider and be curious about our own and others’ fears, longings, aching wounds, values, stifled gifts, and especially our backstories which glob together into making the unique eyes through which we "see things." Guzman writes that "we don't see with our eyes, we see with our whole autobiography." That is really an important concept which I'll be following up on in a following blog.

Here's the main takeaway and cause for hope. Good stuff on our political scene, and our communal lives in general, can happen. It already is happening in many areas with the help of organizations like Braver Angels and people like Monica Guzman. We can connect, stand beside each other, build community, and strive for our common well-being. At the very least, using our nonjudgmental curiosity, we can have swell adventures together...perhaps even grow into the better and braver angels of our nature.

How might we journey together to the Good Life by being curious, learning a few social and conversational skills, and remembering the values that we all hold to unite us?


(Want more on values - what they are and the 10 universal ones? See below, but first this warning from my husband, John. This values stuff can get us bogged down unless you are a bit of the nerdy type - which I happen to be on this sort of stuff. Feel free to skip it!)

What is a Value?

A value, in psychological terms, is a principle or quality that an individual holds in high regard and considers important.

The 6 main features of values:

1. Values are beliefs linked inextricably to affect. When values are activated, they become infused with feeling.

2. Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action.

3. Values transcend specific actions and situations. This distinguishes values from norms and attitudes that usually refer to specific actions, objects, or situations.

4. Values serve as standards or criteria. Values guide the selection or evaluation of actions, policies, people, and events. People decide what is good or bad, justified or illegitimate, worth doing or avoiding, based on possible consequences for their cherished values. But the impact of values in everyday decisions is rarely conscious. Values enter awareness when the actions or judgments one is considering have conflicting implications for different values one cherishes.

5. Values are ordered by importance relative to one another. People’s values form an ordered system of priorities that characterize them as individuals.

6. The relative importance of multiple values guides action. Any attitude or behavior typically has implications for more than one value. The trade-off among relevant, competing values guides attitudes and behaviors. Values influence action when they are relevant in the context (hence likely to be activated) and important to the actor.

The Universal 10 Values

Schwartz’s Theory of Basic Human Values offers a universal model outlining ten broad values that steer human behavior. These include power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security.

1.     Power refers to the pursuit of social status, dominance, and control over people and resources.

2.    Achievement is the personal pursuit of success, demonstrating competence according to social standards.

3.    Hedonism encompasses the pursuit of pleasure, enjoyment, and sensory and emotional gratification.

4.    Stimulation seeks novelty and challenge in life, valuing excitement, variety, and adventure.

5.    Self-direction refers to independent thought and action — choosing, creating, and exploring.

6.    Universalism embodies understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and nature.

7.     Benevolence represents preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’).

8.    Tradition refers to respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide the self.

9.    Conformity is the restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.

10.  Security encompasses safety, harmony, and stability of society, relationships, and the self.

Schwartz arranged these values using a circle, values close to each other on the circle share motivational goals, while values on opposite sides conflict with each other. We can see how some values conflict and can even be conflicting within our own selves.



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