About a year ago, I joined our community’s private social network on the internet. The intent of the site was to keep neighbors in touch with one another about community happenings. It was not meant to serve as a forum for propagating controversial issues (such as political or religious), but, instead, was simply a means to allow neighbors to be, well, “neighborly” to one another.
Typically, I’m not much of a joiner, but I tried the network out, and found it to be fun as well as informative. Through it, I’ve been able to keep up on community news, events, notices from our homeowners association, etc. You could tell from the postings that people cared for one another in a very considerate fashion. Everyone seemed so friendly and helpful towards one another that I was quickly drawn into participation. I was even able to communicate with neighbors I had never met before.
For instance, I saw a posting from a neighbor who was offering discounted tickets to a much publicized, metropolitan home show I’ve visited in the past. When I saw the ticket offer, I thought it would be helpful for me to attend the show since I was doing some home renovations this year. I immediately contacted the neighbor to buy the tickets, but he insisted on giving them to me free of charge. I invited Rebecca to attend with my husband and me, and we ended up having a wonderful family outing. What a blessing it turned out to be, courtesy of a previously unknown (but, generous) neighbor. Now, that’s a great example of U Love kindness!
Knowing human nature, though, I guess it was inevitable that the camaraderie so carefully established between neighbors on the social network would be broken at some point. And, so it happened with ours last week. The cause of the problem was an offense handled poorly by all involved, then tainted with a lack of unconditional love.
It all began when a man in the community, we’ll call Hal, posted a notice about some issues involved in the upcoming midterm elections. Hal wanted to encourage people to understand the facts before they cast their ballots, because he reminded everyone that elections have consequences. (I actually agreed with him in that regard.) Hal did not specifically claim support of any one particular candidate, but he did clearly state the details of the issues from his own perspective. That’s all it took to start the ball of unloving messages rolling.
The first response was from the president of the homeowner’s association who said, “Keep your political crap off the site.” I understood his sentiments, but I thought his reply was kind of harsh. Apparently, so did others, because there was a flurry of additional postings stating so. On the other hand, as one would expect, some people posted statements that fully supported the H.O.A. president’s chastisement. The conflict had commenced.
Hal responded by explaining that he had not made his statements to sway people to any one political candidate, but to help people better understand the issues before they voted. His motive was a desire to have his tax dollars used in ways he deemed worthy. This was not such a bad idea. Nevertheless, people did not respond to Hal’s explanation in a forgiving manner; and, so, the controversy raged on for awhile, with neighbors taking sides depending upon their position.
As a concerned bystander, I was disappointed in the entire ordeal. Prior to this event, it was encouraging to see the neighborhood come together as a friendly community. This predicament threatened to shatter the carefully constructed friendships already in existence. My assessment is that offense was operating in a destructive manner in this situation. And, it became contagious among neighbors.
Clearly, the H.O.A. president did not like Hal’s original comments. In reality, he got offended by them. Through his curt, unkind response, he was able to sway others to his mindset, thereby creating discord in the neighborhood as people took sides. As I followed the increasingly unpleasant comments appearing on the social media site, I remember thinking that this entire hullabaloo could have been averted right from the start with the injection of some unconditional love. Unfortunately, in this case, offense prevailed, and turbulence ensued.
My opinion is that it would have been far more effective for the H.O.A. president to privately contact Hal so that he could gain a better understanding of the motivation behind Hal’s comments. Knowing that Hal meant no harm might have helped to erase offense from the circumstances. It would have then been easier for the president to kindly explain to Hal that his comments were a misuse of the website. This U Love action would have been relationship building, and would have helped to keep friendships intact.
Even further, and in keeping with the original purpose of the site, it would have been completely appropriate for the president to request of Hal (again, in a kind, private fashion) that no more controversial, political comments appear on the site. My guess is that this non-provocative action would have triggered tranquility; conflict would have been averted; and peace would have prevailed in the neighborhood.
Although the uproar eventually died down, hidden resentment will likely continue to hinder friendships among the neighbors for some time. Let’s face it, words that incite are not quickly forgotten. As you can see, division among people can easily occur under circumstances where U Love does not exist. Our neighborhood clash was a perfect example of that.
As is continually the case in our blog, I encourage everyone to think carefully before lashing out with an unloving response to someone else’s provocation. There is always a better way to handle these difficult circumstances….i.e., by infusing them with unconditional love. I’m not saying it’s easy to respond to offense with U Love; but, with practice, it can be accomplished. Remember, practice makes perfect. U Love can triumph!!!
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