Make America Kind Again. A popular catchphrase that took off in November. Everyone on and off the political spectrum was burnt on politics and onboard for it to be ‘over’. But in order to make America kind again, we’re going to need to get uncomfortable first. We need to have the hard talks. The talks with people we do not agree with.

Retreating into our corners of inactivity for the next two to four years doesn’t foster true kindness. We ‘tune back in’ on election years and act surprised that we’re still so divided. But why wouldn’t we be? What have we actually done to bring about unity and understanding? Shared some funny memes that validate our own viewpoints a time or two? We run out of the gate with the same untended wounds of the last election cycle and then act surprised when we stumble.

Imagine if we took the time between elections talking to our friends across the aisle. Not just small talk of how dishes and laundry are of the devil, but about real issues like health care, national security, caring for the disabled, and food waste. I’m talking “I believe XYZ because of ABC and worry about QRS because of TUV”. Voice your opinions, question yourself, and force yourself to dig deep and figure out why you think the things you do. But more importantly, find someone you love who thinks different than you and listen to them. Ask questions to further your understanding, not to try and prove them wrong. Get uncomfortable, be vulnerable. Don’t simply throw your ideas at someone and dig your heels in the mud. Understanding goes a long way in breeding respect. And just like that — we’re back to something we all want to see more of — respect.

kindness countsIt’s easy, and gratifying, to read, hear, and share things that confirm my own belief system. But when they lack substance or try to minimize complex, multi-dimensional issues into 140 characters that are just furthering the divide. Heaven knows I am guilty of getting caught up in the heat and letting my frustration run my mouth and my keyboard. The beauty in making mistakes is you get to learn from them. So trust me when I say good never comes of it, it just backfires and adds heat to someone else’s frustration fire and the cycle continues.

Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and walk away. But once you’ve done so, get back on the horse. I’ve had to swallow my pride and admit my wrongs far more times than I would like to admit (and I am certain there are times I didn’t but should have). We’re all constantly learning and evolving. But shying away from the hard stuff doesn’t help anyone or anything. And wouldn’t you know it, the more we engage in the hard talks, the less hard they become.

There are intelligent class acts on both sides of the aisle. There are complete buffoons on both sides of the aisle. To act like either is a condition of only one political party is short-sighted. There are men-hating feminists, and there are feminist men. There are gay-hating Christians, and there are gay Christians. Making sweeping generalizations is easy, but it doesn’t foster kindness or unity (or accuracy). We have to get uncomfortable and not only question our own beliefs on issues, but question our beliefs about others.

Be it over the internet, over the phone, or in person, have the real talks. Listen, and not just to the people who add fuel to your own fire. We would be a lot better at compromise and compassion if we didn’t back out or puff up every time a controversial issue came to the forefront. Ignoring our difference is not accepting our differences.

So we can make America kind? Absolutely. After all, this is the land of the brave.