Now that the Presidential debates are over, we can start to think about what life will be like after the election on November 8th. This election season has not only been tough for our country, but also has wreaked havoc on many of our personal relationships. Friends and acquaintances have argued for months on Facebook regarding positions the candidates have taken regarding crime and foreign policy, and both sides have contemplated hitting the UNFRIEND button. Siblings have fought about immigration policies and the meaning of what constitutes a sexual assault and are left wondering if they can still have Thanksgiving dinner together. Best friends who have spoken daily for decades have stopped calling each other because of differing opinions about who is best for the Supreme Court and the truth of the latest allegations against each candidate. There is a little girl at my niece’s school who refuses to have a play date with anyone who supports a particular nominee. I, myself, have gotten into a few arguments this campaign season with people in my life whom I have loved for a long time. I began to judge their hearts and values based on their political positions, taking me to a dark place. I wondered how I could ever enjoy their company or even speak to them again if I truly believe they have assumed harmful, hateful views, supporting someone I believe to be untrustworthy and unfit to be the leader of the free world.
I sat with my feelings for many months, and I came to the realization that how we vote does not represent the entirety of who we are as people. Now some may argue with me based on what has been said or done by both Presidential candidates this season, but if we all think about it, my statement is true. I have seen friends who have argued on Facebook about gun control and nonetheless are devoted parents, or charitable people and amazing friends. Siblings fighting over immigration policies have stood by each other through divorces, illnesses and the passing of their parents. Best friends who are now hardly speaking have previously taken each other’s kids to after-school programs, attended charity events together to feed the homeless and even helped clean up parks on weekends. All of these wonderful qualities in each of these people make up the fabric of this country, and these qualities are arguably as important as their vote in this presidential election. Yes, who we vote for says a lot about who we are, but it does not define everything in our hearts. People are complicated and why they vote a certain way or see the world the way they do is based on a lifetime of successes, failures, hopes, and fears, and dreams for what they see as a better tomorrow.
This country will need to heal in the days, weeks and months following the election. In my opinion, the only way to do so is to look for the good in each person in your life and try to repair these relationships and our communities. Lead by example by getting involved with the issues brought up during this campaign season that matter to you. Most of all, choose kindness to everyone, even those who do not agree with how you see the world, while continuing to stay truthful to who you are and what you believe.
The most amazing thing about this country is the infinite ability for all of us each day to find common ground and begin again. So on November 9th, let’s start over and invite our siblings and anyone else we have disagreed with this election season back for Thanksgiving dinner. Just MAYBE the divide will seem a little smaller when we focus on how important we are to each other and how important community, family and friendship is in all of our lives.
Originally Published in Psychology Today