Dark times call for our resilience and beg for our respect

Haleigh McGill

What does it mean to be resilient? How does one become resilient – is it a long and trying process, or a relatively quick choice?

Does it take practice? Does it have to be maintained, or does a person’s resilience remain constant once it has been achieved?

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In the current state of our society and the world at large, everyone is dealing with too many things that have just become way harder than they should be. Discussing differing opinions and perspectives, starting conversations about race or religion, even something as once-simple as making a joke, have become intricate and even daunting tasks. Comedy duo Key and Peele suggest that humor, which they say is supposed “to help people cope with the fears and horrors of the world,” has lost its purpose and value among the pressure to be politically correct, and that not making fun of something is actually a form of bullying, in a column they wrote for a 2014 ideas issue of Time magazine. 

“When a humorist makes the conscious decision to exclude a group from derision, isn’t he or she implying that the members of that group are not capable of self-reflection? Or don’t possess the mental faculties to recognize the nuances of satire? A group that’s excluded never gets the opportunity to join in the greater human conversation,” they said. “Ask yourself what’s worse: making fun of people or assuming that they’re too weak to take it?”

Other tasks that have grown increasingly difficult include maintaining and nurturing relationships, taking a presidential election seriously, trusting the media and other influential resources that are meant to be transparent – the list goes on. All of the above are important parts of our social infrastructure, and we are tearing them down. But why?

Externally, we have become so saturated with digital communication, push notifications, vanity and instant gratification to the point of becoming selfish, bigoted, and essentially unavailable to the ideas, conversations and interactions that occur outside of our own little worlds. Internally, we have been fed and filled with so much negativity and devastation, from both the media and our immediate environments, that it is difficult not to kindle fires fueled by hate. Because of this, instead of respecting differences and seeking to compromise, everyone is struggling for some kind of power. 

Everyone wants to be right, but no one wants to fight for it. We we want to be protected, even within kingdoms of free speech (also knows as college campuses), by anyone who opposes. As a colleague of mine recently wrote, “safe spaces do not exist in the real world.” And as a coach of mine once said, you should always practice like you play. If you’re going to stand up for something you believe in or publicly speak your truth, you’d better be prepared to take a few questions, and a few hits to your self-esteem because there will always be someone trying to prove you wrong. But just because someone yells doesn’t mean you have to yell louder. 

It’s as if every person in the world is in one room together, and we’re all yelling. Could you imagine how loud and obnoxious that would be? We might hear a few individuals near us, but there’s no chance we’re going to hear what’s being shouted about on the other side of the room, or even just a few feet away. And if you can’t hear something clearly, above the noise both around and within you, how could you possibly understand it?

Common, natural reactions to misunderstandings are anger, fear, doubt and insecurity. And right now, those are the negative emotions that motivate and feed the current circumstances we find ourselves living in. In the words of Master Yoda, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Now, imagine that same room, but a little quieter because instead of yelling, everyone is just talking; discussing, stimulating a sense of collective forward thinking. We are open to ideas, differences and change instead of closed off with white knuckles form holding onto our individual beliefs and opinions as if they are they only ones that matter.  

This scenario would help to cultivate more constructive emotions such as hope, empathy and compassion — which may seem quieter and far more flowery than anger or doubt, but are actually much more powerful as they require a greater amount of strength from the individual.

Hate makes you weak, not strong. And until we not only accept that but actually work to do something about it, this is how we will continue to live –  in a world riddled with religious and racial tension and violence, the fear of speaking up because everyone has grown so quick to attack and tall shadows cast by inequalities, threats of terrorism, political turmoil and a growing sense of general uncertainty.

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I can’t imagine living in a world where we not only don’t respect, but also refuse to understand the opinions, lifestyles, beliefs, stories, struggles and the humanity of others — yet that is the world I find myself living in. We are all so sensitive yet so unbelievably brutal at the same time. I don’t know if we are fully aware of what all stand to lose, even though it’s beginning to crack and crumble all around us.

To make it in this world, you have to be resilient. You have to find a way to listen but not dwell and to accept but not settle. I think it might take a little practice, because some things hit harder than others. I think you have to make a choice, every single day, that you are going to be tougher than the day you are about to take on.  

Something that you do not have to be to make it in this world, however unfortunate, is respectful.

But that’s the amazing part — the world is run by humans, who have the ability to choose to make treating people with respect the norm. We can choose to shape the world into a place where people feel a little safer, a little more inclined to have the tough discussions that kickstart social change, a little more valued, a little less afraid, and therefore, a lot more free.

Collegian Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.