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Carlos Whittaker: Why You Need a Diverse Community

Carlos Whittaker: Why You Need a Diverse Community

Thanks to algorithms and a rapidly changing society, it’s easier than ever to find a group of like-minded people. Having friends and relationships who understand where we’re coming from, our cultural background, even our faith beliefs can be refreshing. It’s a way for us to breathe and simply be.

But, like all things in life, community should be balanced. Falling into a silo means that you’re likely not being challenged. You’re not being faced with different worldviews in a constructive way, which leads to misunderstandings and miscommunications with people around us. And now, more than ever, the call for diversity and inclusivity is absolutely necessary.

In his latest book, How to Human: Three Ways to Share Life Beyond What Distracts, Divides, and Disconnects Us, Carlos Whittaker, author, speaker and thought leader, discuss his insights on cultivating a vibrant and diverse community that reflects the beauty of humanity in all its forms.

We sat dow with Whittaker to take a closer look at how we got here and how we can make changes to out community.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Why do you think it’s so difficult to create community these days?

When I was growing up, to hang out with my friends, I had to get in my car and drive to hang out with them. But now, my 16-year-old son still doesn’t even have his driver’s license yet. And he doesn’t care. Why? Because he can get on the Xbox and hang out with his friends. He doesn’t have to leave to be with his friends. And so, moving forward, I think we’re going to have to be very intentional to recapture some parts of our humanity that we may have lost.

For now, I’ve got three steps to help us:Be human, see humans, free humans. That’s it. Let’s take the life of Jesus. There are a lot of books written on his divinity, but let’s talk about his humanity. You don’t have to believe Jesus is God like I do to believe that he was one of the greatest humans ever to walk the face of the Earth. So I look at pieces of his life and think, how do we truly see the people in front of us and around us? Because that is what people have been raging over the last few years. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to be valued. Everyone wants to know that they matter.

That’s something that unlocks humanity. It’s just beginning to see people that don’t look like us, think like us, talk like us, vote like us, all the things like us. I’m constantly looking at my most recent text messages on my phone and making sure that the people I’m in daily relationships with aren’t all like me. That’s one of the key components of what Jesus did. He saw people that weren’t like him. He saw people that didn’t believe him. I feel like that is something super applicable to everybody. Find somebody that’s not like you and see them truly. See them. Be curious about them. Be curious about their lives. Build relationships with people who are different from you, not to change them but to be changed by them. 

Many people are very convicted about whatever the hottest topic is, and it’s easy to see a bunch of opinions popping up on your phone. But you’re just yelling into the void if there’s no action following your conviction. President Obama once was talking about how a generation is coming up thinking that activism is simply nothing more than criticism. Criticism does not equal activism. Like, what is the action that follows your conviction? We can be convicted about things, but what’s the action? What can you tangibly do to free somebody? 

How can someone engage with someone who’s not like them in a healthy way? 

First of all, go into it with an open mind. If you’re already thinking, “this person’s bad for my mental health. I can’t be like hanging out with them,” I have to ask you not to do that. Now, there are relationships I’ve had to sever to maintain my mental health. But that’s not everybody that disagrees with you. Everybody that disagrees with you is not bad for your mental health. If that’s the case, then there’s some work you’ve got to do on your mental health to be able to get healthy.

Far too many people are living in silos and bubbles these days. We’re limited in our growth as humans, and it’s hard. One of the things I like to say to people that disagree with me is :I don’t stand on issues. I walk with people.” And when I say this, people always ask me, as a public-facing person, “Well, Carlos, where do you stand on this issue? Where do you stand on that issue?” And my answer is always the same: I don’t. I don’t stand on issues. I walk with people.

What does that mean? That means that for every issue I have an opinion on, I find somebody directly affected by that issue, and I try to walk with them, whether at a coffee or lunch. It doesn’t mean I’m becoming best friends with the person, but I’m walking with them. And if we can get that phrase in the back of our head — this idea that, “Oh, you know what? I may not, I may disagree with this person. We may not agree on anything, but I can still walk with them” — we’ll be better off.

One of my best friends and I had a hard 2020. We stood on opposite sides of every hot topic — the presidency, COVID, racism in America. This is somebody that was at my wedding, and suddenly we are on opposite sides. And so, our relationship slowed, and I realized, “Hey, listen, why don’t we find some common ground?” And you know what the common ground was? We both love soccer. Nashville got a brand new soccer team, and we bought season tickets to the soccer team right next to each other. So, guess what? Every Saturday, he and I show up, and we root for the same team, and suddenly, we’ve got something to root for together. And guess what? That stupid little season ticket has started to heal things in our relationship that I never thought.

So don’t overcomplicate it. There are some really simple things people can do to start fixing those relationships.

Hear more of our conversation with Carlos Whittaker on The RELEVANT Podcast

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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