One of my favorite bands is Lifehouse. Recently I’ve been listening to one of their earlier releases, “Sick Cycle Carousel”. The song is about a person struggling against the cycle of addiction. Their addiction is analogous to a carousel and the person realizes they need to make the choice to get off and not get back on.
We’re at that point once again as a nation. We thought the 2016 Presidential election was bad but we’ve managed to outdo ourselves. We have a choice to make now that four years have gone by and the carousel has come back around again.
I was discouraged to read an article the other day that was shared on Facebook where the author basically said no to extending civility to Trump supporters. Chants of “Lock her up,” “You lost, get over it,” “Elections have consequences,” and much more still ring fresh in our ears. I get it and now the tables are turned.
The poet W.H. Auden wrote, “I and the world know what every schoolboy learns. Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.” That’s reciprocity in action. People naturally, almost reflexively, give back the form of behavior they first received.
Where will it end?
But where will it end? Consider these lyrics from Sick Cycle Carousel in light of where we are at this moment as a country:
So when will this end
It goes on and on
Over and over and over again
Keep spinning around I know that it won’t stop
Till I step down from this for good
Each of us can make the choice to step down. What if, instead of animosity, anger and gloating, Biden supporters extend grace? How about Trump supporters graciously accepting defeat? What if there’s a sense of humility on both sides and a willingness to try to work with the other side?
This is important because no party stays in power long. In two years, the Senate and House could be controlled by the other side. Four years from now a Republican could be sitting in the White House again. Or, each branch of government could be controlled by one side of the aisle.
Reciprocity works both ways
Hatred is usually met with hatred but kindness is often met with kindness! If you need an example, look to Nelson Mandela. No matter your party affiliation or views on race, America is nowhere near what South Africa was under apartheid.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his political views. Some of that time was in an 8×7 ft cell where he slept on a straw bed on the floor. If anyone had reason to harbor this thought in his heart – “Paybacks are a bitch!” – Mandela did. However, he chose to emphasize forgiveness and reconciliation for the good of the country. He once said, “courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
It’s time for a choice
Could this be the moment where civility is restored? If not now, then when can we expect it? If civility isn’t restored then hasn’t the winning side become the thing they hate about their political opponents? While there may be justification for the feelings of animosity, if the actions it triggers are the very actions you hated then you’ve lost because you’ve become the very thing you hated.
Viktor Frankl understood this. Despite the horrors he endured at the hands of the Nazi’s while spending three years in concentration camps he made the choice to not let it consume him once he was released when the Nazi’s were defeated.
We’re not close to Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa but if we stay the course we’re on, we inch closer to those hateful states each passing day. Is it worth it? I don’t think so. It comes down to each of us making a choice to get off the carousel.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.