My friend Brian was sharing about a relationship he has with a gentleman whose life is very different from his own. They grew up in different countries and have been raised with lifestyles and faith practices that are quite dissimilar. Brian owns a motorcycle shop and explained that another gentleman comes in his shop who has a habit of making unprovoked and aggressively negative comments about all people of faith. However, together, the three of them enjoy motorcycle riding.
Shortly after Brian spoke I listened to a woman who is on furlough from her Christian missionary duties in another country. She described the church with which she is associated that consists of expatriates from several different countries. Part of what she explained was the multi-cultural, multi-national aspect of their services. For example, to be relevant to all the members they sing songs in three to four different languages. But there is a deeper level of interaction that is taking place and it is frighteningly uncommon. Every person involved has been willing to challenge the conditioning of their upbringing, some to the risk of complete ostracizing by their families. She said they have a saying,
“Comparison kills communities.”
These two instances, along with the sermon that followed, caused me to think of the typical response of polarization we are prone to when we encounter someone with values different from our own. We live in times when polarization is the norm. Where most spend their entire existence at a tribal level of awareness.
It is normal to gravitate towards others who are like us. Part of what makes us healthy as humans is having consistent stability which normally takes place among our own kind (although, it doesn’t have to). But the danger of the tribal consciousness is in being programmed not to think. One of the result of this can be in taking a wholesale approach to our view of those “outside” of our value system.
Look at the definition of “polarization”. It means
to restrict the vibrations to one direction.
When it comes to human relationships, I suspect this means I am less defined by what I am, and more defined myself by what I am not. What I am saying is that if I am unwilling to think independently and challenge my most cherished beliefs, I probably don’t really know what I value or why I believe what I do. I am mostly operating at a level of self-preservation. My interactions with those unlike me are more of a foray which, by definition, is
a sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, especially to obtain something; a raid.
I am not suggesting it is wrong to believe in something with great conviction. I am suggesting that rather than being polarized, we can choose to be galvanized which is not a passive thing and may not seem like the opposite of being polarized. If we are galvanized or galvanizing, we may not be popular according to the definition of the word
– shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.
That doesn’t sound like leaving others neutral. But if you look at the second part of the definition it says
coated with a protective layer.
When you are speaking of iron or steel the coating is a layer of zinc. From a personal standpoint. I suggest it means you have taken time to shake your values and beliefs through the sifter and you are certain that they are yours and not just what has been fed to you. You have weighed them against what you understand to be eternally true. And finally, you know that you know that your circumstances or other people do not dictate them for you and they cannot take them from you. Then, I would say you are galvanized.
Here is a short list of outcomes you might experience by virtue of beinggalvanized versus being polarized.
• If you are polarized, you are stuck on one side.
• If you are galvanized, you are free to move throughout the territory.
• If you are polarized, you see the same thing.
• If you are galvanized, you enjoy variety.
• Polarity decreases. Galvanization increases.
• If you are polarized, different is the enemy.
• If you are galvanized, you are free to enjoy the beauty of each person’s story.
What else could you add to this list? Why not write back and tell me? I would love to hear from you.
Do you know where your values come from?
Roy Disney said,
“When your values are clear, decisions are easier.”