By Lana Turnbull
Last November Pope Francis declared a Holy Year of Mercy to last from December 2015 to November 2016. His plea to the world was for “mercy, not judgment,” with the goal of changing the way the Church is perceived by the people around the world.
As this Holy Year comes to a close, after an unusually contentious presidential campaign season and an increasingly volatile world, I find myself wishing for a year of kindness and healing. I don’t really know where to begin, but I’m thinking maybe it should start with the place much of this year’s ire has played out – on social media. For every unkind post or tweet I read, I would like to respond in a way that defuses, rather than inflames the discussion, and acknowledges the shared humanity between the writer and me. Maybe something like, “I can see you’re very passionate about this subject and there is no way I can ever truly understand your individual experiences that have formed your position on the issue. I want you to know that I respect your right to express yourself. Despite our differences of opinion, we’re probably more alike than we are different. I wish we could sit down and share a meal, get to know each other better, and discover what makes each of us who we are.”
Okay, don’t call me Pollyanna. I know that a response like this might not build a conversational bridge over every philosophical gorge, but I have to wonder what would happen if we all gave it a try between now and the end of the year? I have read so much in the last few months about how we live in such divided worlds that many of us don’t know anyone who doesn’t share our views. We live in bubbles of sameness and the only place many of us encounter people with differing opinions is online, where it’s far too easy to lash out without having to look someone in the eye and see firsthand the fruit of our wrath.
We hear about movements that are begun with a tweet, global challenges that are gaining awareness because of the astonishing reach of social media. I’d like to think that the pursuit of kindness and healing are worthy of recognition and that principles of inclusiveness and acceptance deserve at least equal attention with fashion and fad. Let’s begin by learning to ‘turn the other tweet.’ Just imagine what we have to gain.