It seems as of late, every which way we turn, we run into “us vs. them.” On a school level, this isn’t always unusual as our students learn to build healthy friendships and relationships. Things can be going along swimmingly until exclusion happens or comments are made that result in hurt feelings or broken relationships. We try to use these important teachable moments to present a different way to be friends, to be in community. This can be difficult in present times, however, when there is a more extreme sense of differing opinions, many of which are publicly made through the news and varying forms of social media and electronic communication. There seem to be no boundaries. For many of our students, as they become plugged into electronic devices, habits are quickly formed around postings and messages that would never be said directly to someone. So how can we possibly find better ways to build bridges rather than walls? The words offered by Saint Francis provide a model for us to follow.
In our chapel program on Monday, as we concluded our conversations about justice, we discussed approaches we can take when we have disagreements with friends and relations, particularly when relationships seem to be broken or damaged. First, we need to listen. I am the first to admit that sometimes I speak before I listen and, as a result, I make assumptions that might be incorrect. Perhaps the other person feels misunderstood and unheard, which leads to the second point, seek to understand. When we can listen and understand another person’s viewpoint or perception of the situation, we are much more likely to erase assumptions and be able to offer solutions. Talking about someone rather than to someone does not provide solutions. As we all know, it’s difficult to fix a problem until we know what it is. Communication and relationships are two-way streets, so the more we can give people the benefit of the doubt, the more likely we are to enter into reconciliation. When we can listen and gain a better understanding, we are in a position to forgive or ask for forgiveness, which begins the important process of healing in a relationship. When communication has once again been established, we can bring joy back in through generosity of action and spirit. This opens the door for love to enter in.
In this process, we can live into the prayer of Saint Francis, being instruments of peace, sowing love, offering pardon, having faith, offering hope, being the light, and spreading joy. Of course this is easier said than done, but each day offers us the opportunity to move forward, and so we begin again.
Head of School