Photos by Jenna Strubhar
“This is a call to the women in my faith community to come together and rise above division.”
That was the start of Sally’s Facebook post inviting people into her home to create unity in a world that seems intent on driving us apart.
She was tired of the hyper-polarized and hostile atmosphere of social media and felt “stuck between wanting my passionate viewpoints to be heard and …[wanting] to bury my head in the sand as a means of avoiding judgment/confrontation in my relationships.”
Maybe you can relate.
But instead of doing either of those two things, Sally did something extremely counterintuitive: she took the conversation offline. She decided to show up in real life to listen and love. She put out a bravely open invitation to the women in her community and offered to host a time to discuss (not debate) difficult issues with love.
Using her skills as a therapist, she helped the group learn how to frame their statements in a disarming and peace-promoting way, even in the midst of disagreement.
Together, the women practiced three things:
Viewing a person as a person first
Hearing them out with the goal of peace and unity
THEN possibly offering an alternative viewpoint.
Encouragingly, Sally is not the only one hosting gatherings like this that seek to bring divisive conversations offline and into real life.
After participating in a “respectful and impassioned” online dialogue surrounding the Women’s March with the women in her church, Natalie decided the conversation would be more fruitful “away from an online forum and face to face as sisters.”
So they arranged to get together and continue their discussion about the march, abortion, Planned Parenthood, and women’s rights. They called it “Jesus, Feminism, and Reproductive Rights." Every corner of political conviction was represented, and there was very little agreement. But they shared their experiences and perspectives, listened to each other, and learned from one another.
Natalie described the reality of the meeting as “messy and chaotic, kiddos running around everywhere, tears, and tons of laughter.”
And honestly, that is the reality of most peacemaking attempts—messy.
Neither group felt like they came to any groundbreaking conclusions. But the women who attended felt heard—and they now know that there are people who love them despite disagreement.
And isn’t that what unity actually is?
It doesn’t feel conclusive or dramatic, but I think that’s just the nature of peace and unity. It doesn’t have the *bang* of war or the *clash* of conflict, so it feels anticlimactic. But, unlike conflict, I don’t think unity is something we arrive at. It might just be something we work toward.
And it is a slow process. Sally said that one of the biggest things she took away from her gathering was that “the maturity, respect, patience and slowness of tongue that is required for such conversations means respecting that the process is SLOW.”
But if we bring these conversations offline and into our living rooms, as these women did, we’ll get much further down the road to unity than if we stay behind our screens.
Peace is made in person. So if you are one of those people lamenting the divisiveness of our world, get out from behind that keyboard and go do something about it.
“Surely”, Sally wrote in her post, “there is a healthy way to come together as a smaller community united in love, truth, and prayer that ultimately leaves us in a place where our words and stories speak healing, freedom, and redemption to our larger communities...
Let us be women who have the courage to seek love, truth, understanding and healing above being women who demand to be right.”