Imagine. A beautiful summer’s day and you and your mates decide to go for a swim in a wee lochan close by.
You spend an hour or two mucking about in the cold, deep, crystal clear water – diving down to the depths, splashing about and having a great time.
Then swimming on your back you look up and notice what looks like a rocky outcrop, poking out of the mass of ferns on the hillside and you and your friends think it would make an amazing spot to jump from.
So, you clamber up to see what it’s like. It takes a while to get there but once you do, you realise there’s a breath-taking drop into the water. Some of your friends decide it is far too breath-taking and turn to head back down through the bracken.
But you decide you are going to go for it. You make your way to stand on the very edge and look down and sixty or seventy feet below the water awaits. You can feel your heart racing.
Standing there your legs suddenly feel like jelly. Your head buzzes. Will you? Or won’t you? Jump? Or join the others?
The seconds feel like an eternity. Then. Then what? Do you jump? Or walk back down?
People react very differently when it comes to facing the unknown. For some, the stepping out is a challenge they want to rise to. They see the unknown as exciting and full of possibilities. They want to go for it.
For others it can feel like a step too far. There are too many ‘what if’s in the unknown. The uncertainty is unnerving and just too scary to contemplate.
For others, what they finally end up doing may depend on other, external factors such as the other things that are happening at the same time; or what other people around them are doing, or how high they judge the risk factors to be.
As I say, people are all different and cope differently with what they don’t know.
The truth is, there is no one, single or right way to react.
Right now, there are people up and down the United Kingdom who are feeling any and all of these things as our politicians decide the future direction of our nation and sometimes those who think one way can find it difficult to see how or why others can think quite differently. If I was at the lochan there is absolutely no way they would have got me on the edge of a cliff looking down because I am scared of heights.
I would expect those who were with me to understand that and to leave me to choose to stay put when they set off through the bracken. Everyone who feels strongly about what is happening politically at the moment, feels what they feel because they think it’s for the best. No one on any side, is deliberately looking to wreck the nation.
And if that is the case then while we might disagree with one another, we ought to still, to be able to respect each other. When that respect disappears, it means bullying tactics are being employed and people have stopped listening and caring.
It becomes my way or the highway.
I am afraid that sometimes when we see and listen to the proceedings in the UK Parliament or when we read reports of those proceedings, the rudeness, the name-calling and the shouting down, seems utterly disrespectful.
Last November, I had the chance to sit in on Prime Ministers’ Questions in the Houses of Parliament and I confess I was appalled by the way people spoke to one another. I also remember thinking that if these were children in school who were behaving in that way, I would be keeping them behind after school and writing to their parents.
Ten months later and the uncertainty of what lies ahead means that feelings and passions are running even higher and while I know these really are anxious times, I still don’t think that shouting others down is going to help us in whatever the future holds.
Whichever path it is eventually decided we should take to get to where we are headed, room needs to be made for those who want to jump, as well as for those who would rather choose a different route, alongside those who don’t want to go anywhere.
If room is not made for everyone then we are no longer a democracy.
Even those who think very differently from us.
Even those whose views may be the exact antithesis of what we believe.
Everyone needs to have a voice – then having been listened to respectfully, decisions can be made which are then made in a considered and not combative way, for the good of all.
Whether we embrace or dread the unknown, if we face it with others, it becomes less of an unknown and more of a joint venture. Let’s not shut each other out.
The Right Rev Susan Brown is minister of Dornoch Cathedral and the former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland