Peace is a Five-Letter Word

Written by: April Brooks

How a game is shaking up our divides

If you’ve ever been in a new place or situation, you may have experienced the quick pangs of anxiety.  Walking into a class, cafeteria, or meeting for the first time, you probably had a variation of these thoughts: Does my hair look okay? Did I choose the right outfit? Do they think I’m cool enough? Will I put my foot in my mouth?  Am I popular enough to sit at their table? 

In the world of neuroscience, these are called metaperceptions.  Metaperceptions are how an individual perceives others’ perceptions of themselves. To put it plainly: we worry about what others think about us, and we often assume they are thinking negatively about us, which influences how we interact with them. That can look like hating someone back simply because we think they hate us.  It gets complicated very quickly.

If we see someone we believe to be on the other side of a divide (religious, political, etc.), we assume they hate us and everything we stand for. If we get the idea in our minds that another group hates us, metaperceptions can drive us apart. We won’t work with them because we just KNOW they hate us. So the cycle continues. 

But Wordle is shaking up those metaperceptions! This simplistic, five-letters-at-a-time spelling game offers players from all walks of life, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all races, religions, and ages: 

  • A sense of belonging to a Wordle-loving community–When was the last time you remember different sides of the political aisle agreeing on anything in public? 
  • A sense of togetherness–Many companies are even allowing ten minutes of team-building time for Wordles each morning. 
  • A sense of shared accomplishment–Some of the words are really obscure so, when you and your team come together to figure it out, a shared sense of pride follows. 

And most importantly, Wordle is giving us a clearer understanding of what normal, healthy polarization should be. In the quest to solve the puzzle, we forget that we vote for different candidates or worship in different ways. The focus is shifted.  

Because the puzzles are quick to play, easily shareable (without giving away spoilers), and spark conversations about the solution, the appeal to join the low-risk craze is contagious. Coworkers start their day solving the puzzle together, grandparents FaceTime their grandkids to work on it, and friends text each other their colorful solution answer blocks to show their strategies and successes.  

What is this crazy game?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, let us enlighten you. Wordle is a free, web-based spelling game taking the internet by storm. The game offers players a total of six guesses to correctly spell out the five-letter Wordle of the day.  If any guessed letter isn’t in the word of the day, the letter turns gray, and you know not to use it on the next try.  Yellow and green letters also help guide players to the correct answer.  It’s a logic-puzzle lover’s dream! Can’t figure it out in six guesses? You lose that day’s Wordle.  

Here’s one of the best aspects of Wordle: You can only play one, five-letter word per day, and every single person in the world is playing the exact same Wordle puzzle.  One Wordle, one solution– so the only advantage is playing it earlier in the day than someone else or solving it in fewer tries than the next person. A new Wordle drops every evening at the same time, giving participants precisely 24 hours to solve.  

The Work of the One America Movement

The One America Movement was founded on the belief that addressing divides and toxic polarization in life can be done by finding our commonalities. We do this by equipping faith communities to tackle division and work together across political, racial, and religious divides to solve problems that matter. We sincerely believe these positive conversations can lead to the necessary comfort levels of the more challenging conversations by breaking down real and perceived barriers with one another. 

And so, this crazy, no-ads, web-based spelling game created amid a pandemic ultimately shows us the power of scarcity and community. When working together to solve something as simple as a Wordle puzzle becomes a way to focus on commonalities instead of our personal beliefs and differences, we set the stage to address toxic polarization in our communities on a larger scale. 

Oh, and P.S. “Peace” is a five-letter word.  

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