Nuance: (noun) a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.
Nuance – something that allows for wiggle room, discussion, compromise, and empathy. We desperately need the return of it in our culture. It is not possible to exist in the extremes. When we stop to check ourselves we realize we do not exist there anyway. We need to stop living off sound bites, cliches, and party lines, and realize life is full of subtlety, complexity, and shades of gray.
- It is possible to own a gun and support reasonable gun laws.
- It is possible to be pro-choice and still hold that abortion is wrong.
- (Or be pro-life and still realize women need options because her life matters too).
- You can desperately want to love your neighbor and stand behind realistic immigration laws.
When we get out from behind our fear, which is craftily veiled in paper-thin tribes and sound bites, we realize that even our own opinions have nuance to them. It’s time to stop seeing any view contrary to ours as “wrong” and be willing to acknowledge the shades of gray we hold. If we cannot, our society, relationships, and humanity will continue to decline.
It starts with us getting real with ourselves. Turn off the TV, put your phone away and pick a topic. This is not about “them” – it is about you. How do you feel about said topic? Start with the cliche sound bites and then move beyond them. Our opinions are so fragile because we don’t allow for nuance so any affront (or a simple question) sends us into a self-protection rage. We cannot reasonably discuss what we have not thought through and taken the time to consider, research, and ruminate on for ourselves.
If there is an alternative view or sound bite that irks you, investigate why. Again, stay with you. “Them” here is irrelevant. This exercise is not to craft an ideal argument or go for the “win.” It is not to demonize those you disagree with. This is to help get beyond the shield of anger we put up around issues to address what is underneath. Why do you have such a visceral reaction to this?
Take time to wrestle through the extremes, go below the surface, rehumanize the other side (because they are human). Remember that all of these issues affect real people. Our ideals impact others. Be willing to try to stand in the shoes of a person affected by the policy, law, or stance you cling so hard to.
What about that parent who has lost a child to gun violence or someone who sees guns as core to our American identity? Try to imagine why a woman would pursue an abortion or why people feel the need to regulate it so hard. Again, try to see the person on the other side, not the cliche or caricature that has been used to vilify them. Do not demonize, justify, or excuse their existence (or your hatred towards them). Let the other side become real.
Then check yourself.
- Why do you believe “X” or “Y?” What do you truly believe about “X” or “Y?”
- What do you actually know?
- How much of your opinion is based on the fiction of your side?
- Have you ever researched the issue beyond what your news station of choice says about it?
- Do you know how this policy started or how it has evolved over the last fifty years?
- What are you losing because of your opinion? Who have you isolated?
What if we saw our point of view not as “right” (vs. wrong) but as something that ripples out to others AND has the freedom to change? Are you willing to cling to no gun control if it means more children will die? Don’t default to the “we’ll arm everyone” comeback. That is not where we are and it will probably never happen.
What will happen if we outlaw abortion? Will it actually prevent them? What about stats from countries where abortion is illegal? Is there something else that we can look to if we want to decrease abortion by choice (vs. forcing it)?
If we cannot acknowledge and investigate the nuance within ourselves, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us (and be willing to at least tiptoe into why that is), we cannot have the discussion and progression we need in the public arena.
We are more than what we’ve become. We are more than sound bites, party lines, right and wrong. We are people – complex, messy, human, and made for each other.
Isolating to our extremes is not working. What if we took small steps towards each other? Steps we can only allow when we put nuance back on the table.
- Braving the Wilderness (Brene Brown)
- I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) (Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers)
- Pantsuit Politics (Podcast by Holland + Silvers)
- Switch on Your Brain (Caroline Leaf)
- Talking to Strangers (Malcolm Gladwell)
If there is a particular topic you want to learn more about, start with a simple google search of movies or books on the topic. Need more help? Reach out to me and I will see what I can do.