The Presidential Inauguration is fresh on the hearts and minds of everyone. Emotions are running high and the United States holds her breathe as we’re launched into unknown territory. In the heated social media discussions and personal interactions, it may be tempting to put some people on hold, or altogether abandon any interaction with them from this day forth.
I get it. And, politics isn’t the only subject matter to disagree on. Sometimes it can be hard to understand how other people can see things so differently. Opposing views can make us feel angry and uncomfortable, and some individuals can be obnoxious with their opinions. It’s, certainly, much easier to mingle with people who share our values.
Still, there are reasons to hang onto those friends whose opposing views are undeniable. Some of my most beloved friends hold completely different views on life, relationships, politics, and religion. It isn’t because I hold my tongue, although I can when needed. And, it isn’t because they hold theirs. And yes, sometimes it gets uncomfortable and, sometimes, we make each other angry. Even so, they’re invaluable to me.
Why keep people in my life who can boil my blood now and then? Simple. They have so very much to offer. I love all of my friends for different reasons. Of course, it is easier to hang out with people who get me. I have friends who can make me feel uneducated and uninformed. Sometimes I am uneducated and uninformed! Then there are those who understand my point of view because they share the same convictions and I don’t have to explain anything. They already get it and that’s refreshing.
Regardless, despite being uncomfortable and, at times, irritating, the friends who think differently stretch me so much farther than I could be otherwise. Those who ask questions and challenge my views, get me thinking on a much deeper level. Often, they bring information to the table I didn’t hear before and they offer insight from life experiences that are unique to them.
I’m drawn to people of differing views who are also respectful, courteous, and knowledgeable. I’ve had many “ah ha!” moments simply because I listened to someone I didn’t agree with, and they listened to me. Trust me, leave it to someone who has thought about the issue more than I have to set me right! My friends and family with different views can certainly take me down a notch, reveal the shallowness of my own ideas, and take my pride for a spin. But guess what, its ok! Sometimes it’s necessary. I’m still learning and as long as they aren’t hell bent on hurting me just to hurt me and their approach is kind, then I can swallow my pride and hear them.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:5, 6
However, I don’t appreciate people who throw stones and resort to name calling. I don’t care for people who attack me on a personal level just because we disagree. Neither am I receptive to the ideas of someone who is insulting and belittling. I’m not talking about engaging with trolls and people on my social media feed who resort to accusations and smearing rather than sound arguments. But, those who can offer insight, expand my world view, and share in differing ideas because of their education, life experience, and convictions while remaining respectful and understanding. I am more than happy to have a conversation with those friends.
I want to hear their views. I want to understand. I only have enough time and brain capacity to learn so much at any given point in my life. My ideals are bound to draw me toward certain conclusions, and I am able to admit that at times, I get it wrong. We all get it wrong sometimes.
That doesn’t mean every discussion results in finding common ground. I’ve had conversations in which the other party and I, are left with nothing but awkward silence between us as we soak in the realization that we have nothing more to say to each other because we are still as polarized on the subject as we were when we started the conversation. The thing is, I always learn something. Some convictions just can’t be altered. Some core beliefs can’t be compromised. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn from the conversation. There are always opportunities to grow in understanding and in compassion.
Hearing other ideas and empathizing with where they come from and where they started and how they developed doesn’t’ mean you always land on the same conclusion. It does mean I can walk away more aware, better informed, and more loving toward that person and their view. It is very easy to make judgments about people and ideas we do not understand. But, I believe that most people are driven by ideals they find good and necessary. Disagreeing doesn’t make them the enemy. It makes them different. Different isn’t bad, it’s enlightening.
We don’t have to agree with every belief we encounter, but we do have to love people for who they are and where they are in their lives. Yes, it gets ugly sometimes. Yes, it gets heated, but mutual respect and love can overcome those feelings if we care more about the person than about making a point.
I am very thankful for my friends who share their views, in love and respect. When I get it wrong, they help me see the other side. And when they get it wrong, I help them. It is a mutual give and take with openness, honestly and, above all, mutual care for each other. I’ve been guilty of letting misinformation and the wrong voices sway my thinking. If not for my friends who can respectfully voice, “That’s just not true,” I’d still be walking in those wrong ideas. We have so much to learn from each other but we have to hear each other out. I’m not perfect, and neither are they, but we can encourage each other in the things we agree about and learn from each other when we disagree. And, ultimately, we can learn to love each other better if we humanize the opposing views. The only way I know how to do that, is to hear the other side of the story. There is always two sides. Sometimes, the other side isn’t as backwards and crazy as we first though. And when it is, well….
…try not to let it turn you into a troll.
Let’s practice hearing each other. Let’s practice mutual care and civility. Let’s practice appreciation for the people who expand our world view, even when they’re obnoxious and frustrating. Let’s practice learning from each other. Let’s practice respectful discussions.
I don’t want to lose my friends just because we see things differently, and I hope they don’t want to lose me. I can’t see beyond my own experiences and understanding without access to other ideas, and most likely, neither can you. Let’s keep navigating the issues together. Let’s keep talking, because I don’t want to get stuck in my own unchallenged ideas; that’s a dangerous place to stay.
“Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find thevknowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:3-5