Let’s Agree to Avoid being Disagreeable

by Joe Jacob

Why do we feel so threatened when someone does not agree with us? Seems like we are programmed to go into battle, to defend ourselves if someone has a different opinion or point of view. Is there some kind of survival advantage in making the other person wrong? Are we so insecure in what we believe and who we are that if someone disagrees with us it means they hate us? Even worse, if we disagree with someone, does that mean we have to hate them?

Face it. You and I are part of a nation of spoiled brats. We want to be right all of the time. Win at any cost. Even if we are right most of the time or at least we think we are right most of the time, we are only right from our perspective. Guess what? There are infinite perspectives in a world of billions of people. Who ordained us to be “the right one”? Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Our ego tells us we are the right one. We need to sit down and have a long talk with ourselves.

I guess I am being hard on us. The truth is, we are all just trying to find our way in a very confusing world and at a very confusing time. The world is a mess, and it does not seem to be getting any better. Actually, it seems to become more chaotic every day. If a pandemic was not enough, throw in catastrophic fires, floods and unheard of heat waves. Misinformation is everywhere. People you thought you could trust seem to have gone crazy. Our politics are pitting us against each other. One news outlet says one thing, and another news outlet says just the opposite. Was January 6th. a peaceful demonstration or did I actually see people breaking into the Capital and beating law enforcement officers with bats, flag poles and shields?

In a nation where many of us have more than what we need to have a happy, rewarding life we have latched onto the the myth that “we will be happy when”. Someday, when we have enough money or enough toys or when we have enough of everything, we will be happy then. If only someone does not threatened us, we will be happy then. If only they share our views, we will be happy then. Perhaps that is why when someone sees the world differently and does not agree with us, it feels like a threat. Money and things do not make us happy, and now they disagree with us. Have we not only been wrong about money and things, but about everything-else, too?

Well, guess what? Want to be happy? I know you do not want to do so, but you have to change. You can do that by being aware of how it feels when someone disagrees with you. Perhaps they meant to threaten you and maybe not, but you are the one who feels threatened and you have to own the feeling. You have the power within you to acknowledge the feeling of being threatened and choose to feel something different, something more nurturing. Avoiding people who think differently than you does not solve the problem. We should have learned that lesson years ago. That is one of the reasons our politics are in the condition they are in. Very few people want to take the time to understand the other person’s point of view. You do not have to agree with it. It just helps when the other person feels heard. Our politics only reflect where we are as a people. It is sad. Some people just do not want to give up their opinion. To do that means to give up their ego, and their ego may be the only meaningful thing they have to share with the rest of the world.

I believe that what we need right now is something in which we can all agree. I think we can all agree that we need clean air to breathe, if not for ourselves, then for the people we love and want to protect. We can probably all agree that we do not want to drink water that poisons us or people we care about. I hope we would all agree on having safe and adequate food to sustain ourselves and others. Probably, we could all agree that everyone should have a home. All these things we can agree on are provided by this green and blue amazing sphere we live on, if only we could learn to treat it like we would like to be treated. Seems like there is so much in which we could agree that could form the basis for a happy nation and world. If only we could agree and not be threatened, and allow that threat to become hate.

Joe Jacob, a Chatham resident for more than 30 years and a marine biologist by training, is president of www.HawRiverCanoe.com. He worked for The Nature Conservancy for 20 years and served as Director of Science for TNC’s Southeast Region.