One of the things I have been harping on for a bit now is the need for those on the left….progressives….to seek to understand the motivations of those who were supporting Trump.  One of the most important things we can do as a human being is to develop understanding and empathy for those who think and act differently from ourselves.  Such empathy does not condone words and actions that are harmful (such as misogynist, racist, xenophobic ones).  To understand does not mean to agree with.  But understanding is essential for healing and growth.

One of Stephen Covey’s famous “7 habits” was to “seek first to understand then to be understood“.  If we go off trying to change the mindset of Trump supporters without any understanding it, then we are sadly misguided.

Earlier this year in one of my articles I stated: “I want to stress that America needs to really do some soul searching as to why so many people are supporting Trump.  There are obvious needs that are not being met by a large number of people who see him as the best voice for their concerns.”  Now that he has won the election, even though it is easy to say that their needs will be met by him (and that is to be seen), it still behooves the rest of us to understand their motives.

One of the best articles that has been shared with me recently to help me understand some (but not all) of the Trump supporters was this one from “Cracked Magazine”, a humor journal.  It is worth the read.

It’s easy to say that Trump voters were a minority of the country.  Afterall, only a quarter of the population voted for him and Hillary Clinton had over a million plus more votes.  But a fourth of our country is a significant number and represent many people that we need to understand, especially if we are going to heal the divide in our people and culture.

So how do we go about getting this understanding?  Here’s a couple of thoughts for you….

Integral Philosopher Steve McIntosh says that we should employ a “politics of virtue”.  He writes, “the most virtuous response will involve acknowledging that their problems are our problems, and that we are in this together. Liberals and progressives can thus respond positively to Trump by taking up the cause of rehabilitating America’s working class, not only economically, but also culturally. And this must begin by humbly admitting that our progressive social vision needs to be refined and improved so that those who have been left behind can now be reincluded within our circle of care.”

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild says that our empathy can be a force for positive change. Yet many of us fear that our developing empathy for those with whom we strongly disagree may cause us to feel like we are compromising our moral compass and values.  Responding to this concern in an interview with Greater Good Hochschild says, “This goes to the core issue. If you are climbing an empathy wall, aren’t you giving in to racists and bigots who are shouting, cruelly, at Latino classmates? Are you giving in to that, when you climb the empathy wall? And I actually don’t think that empathy gets in the way of solving this problem. I had five years there [studying others with different beliefs]. Did I come back with different politics? No, I didn’t. I’m exactly, politically, the person I was five years ago. But it enables you to do your thinking with more understanding. Feelings and empathy open up a deeper level of thinking.”

So what does this have to do with evolution? For me, the bottom line is this:

We are all moving through this human experience together.  We are all connected.

This experience is part of our ongoing spiritual evolution.

The more we can “humbly admit” our own limitations, the more we can open up in the understanding of others.

Judging and condemning others who think differently does not serve our growth.

Although we should never condone destructive words and behavior, developing empathy and understanding for others and their situation does serve to open us to “deeper levels of thinking”.

When we are able to think and see situations from a deeper level, we are able to identify solutions that serve us collectively better and can lead to a world that works for more people.

Finally, in all of this….more empathy, deeper levels of thinking, better solutions…we evolve to new levels of consciousness which serves our personal and collective journey through this experience.

Mark Gilbert


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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via / CC BY-SA

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