We all want it. Sometimes we find it hard to give. But the truth is, we all need it. We are imperfect flawed human beings who will hurt others–sometimes intentionally and sometimes quite inadvertently. We tend to view things from our own point of view and have trouble seeing through other lenses.

That is what is happening in America today. We find it hard to discuss things without taking it personally. Granted some issues are highly charged and emotional by nature; by we have taken being offended to a new level. We can not debate each other on respectful or friendly terms. “I disagree with you,” is equivalent to saying “I hate you.” How did we get this way?

Better yet how can we stop it? How can we listen wholly without thinking about our next response? Everybody wants to present their side but, convinced they are right, no one wants to listen to opposing views. It is downright disheartening and truly difficult to navigate. If we don’t listen to each other, we become divided. And wise president once said, “A house [nation] divided against itself cannot stand.”

I have one choice: begin with me. How can I change myself? How can I practice better listening. How can I empathize; validate people, become a peacemaker? How do I forgive unkind words, looks or actions? These are the questions that keep me up at night or that I wrestle with in my sleep.

I don’t like the way our nation has become so divided. Were we ever unified? Was it an illusion? Does the media just report more of it? Spin it? Does every black person feel afraid to walk alone at night? I’m not black and I feel afraid to walk at home at night. Is my fear lesser because of the color of my skin?

These are the questions I ask myself. I am white in America and I want to hear my black and Indian neighbors, my hispanic neighbors stories. I have lived in Hawaii and been in the minority…I have wished my skin was brown before but I never was afraid that I would be mistreated by police.

My grandchild is of mixed race–he is too young to know that skin color is an issue. But someday he will be painfully aware which breaks my heart. Young children don’t know to be racist, it seems they would be friends with anyone. Until we tell them they can’t. Oh that we would all be as colorblind as these little ones…that we would freely forgive the hurts of the past and look toward a brighter tomorrow.

That we would join hands to make America strong…for all of us…justice for all. It may or may not have been intended by our forefathers. But we can purpose it. We can forgive. Like the One who forgave us. It doesn’t erase all the hurt. It can’t make the pain go away altogether. But it can give us hope.

And without hope, the freedom we hold so dear won’t really be worth very much. If we are all afraid of each other, all angry at each other–what does it matter if we are free?

Freedom without Jesus? It’s just another wall…

I pray we can forgive–and start tearing the walls that divide us as a nation down.

It all starts with a listening ear.

Be one.

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