As America slowly tugs itself into pieces and divides itself based on how evil we assume people with opposing views to be, there’s one thing sorely missing: grace.
Because we don’t have enough division and angst in this country, there are always people out there actively scouring social media and other digital records looking for anything various people may have written or posted that would warrant cancelling them from culture.
And I’m not just talking about people who are still alive. We are looking through historical records and judging all people, past and present, against the cultural “norms” of today (such as they are).
Of course, at no time in history would the people of one generation not suffer under the judgement of any other generation when viewed through the latter’s lens of what is right, wrong, or acceptable. The ever-changing mores of one time in history is never the same as another.
The general trajectory is that morals are continually loosening, though others will tell you the pendulum swings. Either way, they’re always changing. And people are always quick to judge. Perhaps we should take a step back.
One of the gifts of free speech is that people say many things. That includes road testing different thoughts and opinions to see how people react. We can’t ever know entirely how well thought out any given written or spoken statement or opinion is. We can’t know how serious the speaker is.
Also, just because we may disagree, be offended, or just be surprised they actually said it, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It may be what many are thinking but afraid to say.
Either way, the purpose of free speech is to protect the speaker and encourage even more discussion. As I’ve heard said before, the antidote to free speech is more speech.
Instead, we’re scaring people off. We’re doing what we can to create fear and, inevitably, silence. We’re going the exact wrong direction. We’ve got to create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable saying whatever they’re thinking. And the foundational element to that is grace.
We have to be more understanding and forgiving. We have to give the benefit of the doubt. We have to acknowledge we cannot know what is in a person’s heart or mind, and we shouldn’t pretend we know. We certainly shouldn’t try to get a person removed or cancelled as a result of whatever it is they say.
To create the country we once were and will be again, grace is going to be a foundational element, and we must bring it back and start cultivating it now. Only by giving benefit of the doubt and being willing to forgive can we encourage people to explore ideas, learn from the bad ones and encourage the good ones.
People are inherently good, but they all make mistakes. We have to help people be willing to fail in public by showing them it won’t be catastrophic for them.