However you voted on the European Referendum, few would argue against the suggestion that the vote for Britain to exit the EU has stirred things up. This is not only true within the UK and Europe, but also wider afield and as Fed Chair Janet Yellen was recently quoted as saying, “Brexit is causing uncertainty”.
What seems to be common on both sides of the For/Against Brexit issue is that there is a fair bit of anger around. Many of those “for” Brexit are angry about they way the EU sets things like immigration policies and so forth; many of those “against” Brexit are angry at those who are for Brexit and would rather stay part of the EU.
Feelings run high in this type of situation and it is all too easy for people to take sides and then get indignant, angry and judgmental about the people on the “other side” – whoever the other side happen to be. However, I think there is a deeper issue rather than just the rights and wrongs of Brexit itself.
The results of the European Referendum has thrown up a wonderful opportunity for the the UK, and European communities – and possibly for the global community too. It gives us a chance to learn to get along with people who we strongly disagree with – whether the people we need to learn to get along with happen to be Brexit Supporters or Brexit Detractors.
What does the world need more of? How about tolerance, forgiveness and peace? You might say, “Love” and I would not disagree, but that is basically the same thing. Brexit is offering all of us a chance to create a more tolerant, more forgiving and more peaceful world. If you are wondering how on earth it will do that, please read on….
Where does our true character show up? Our true character shows up on how we treat people we intensely disagree with. Anybody can be kind and decent to those we agree with and who therefore agree with us. But what happens when we deeply disagree with someone about issues which are fundamentally important to us? What about when they represent behaviour, values and ways of living so in opposition to what we care about that, we can’t stand the sight of them? We just want them to go away, but they are still here.
This is true for all of us no matter where we stand on the Brexit issue. For some people Brexit and its supporters are “the enemy”; for others Brexit detractors are “the enemy”. In either case it is a chance to examine our true character and how we get tempted to judge, condemn and disparage other people – and even to hate and bitterly resent them.
Anyone who condemns and disparages other people, out of hatred and resentment, is operating in a negative and destructive manner. Such people often assume that they have the right to claim the moral high ground. They convince themselves they are experiencing “moral indignation” but they are fooling themselves and are really experiencing “immoral indignation”.
No one can claim the moral high ground, no matter their views, if they are in a state of hatred and resentment. Hatred, resentment and bitterness are never part of the moral high ground and nobody acting out those feelings can truly claim that position. Only things like, compassion, love, tolerance and forgiveness are part of the moral high ground. Anything else is very likely to be fake.
It is not a matter of pretending to agree with other people who we vehemently want to oppose, or sweeping our true feelings under the carpet. However, it is a matter of treating other people with respect no matter how different their views are from ours and no matter what tactics those people resort to.
We can still present our own views, whatever they may be. We can still take bold, decisive action against injustices that we see. However, we do not need to turn the other person into “the enemy”. We do not need to resort to hatred and resentment. Such bitter feelings are part of the challenge to grow up and to develop our character.
Forgiveness is one way to develop our character. It is not a soft option, by any means, as it involves being willing to look boldly and honestly at our own part in the situations where we might have been quick to judge and blame others.
Forgiveness can also help us manage some of the uncertainty arising from Brexit. Rather than losing our moral compass and getting caught up in being angry and blaming others, we can use the opportunity to affirm our ability to handle life and the challenges it brings through goodwill and kindness and consideration to others.
Are you ready to learn to forgive? Try my free ebook Four Steps to Forgiveness. (I don’t even ask for you email address – it is really free).
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Four Steps to Forgiveness
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William Fergus Martin