A couple of weeks ago I got together with a couple of ladies that I love for a play group. We call it play group but really it is just a chance for us to hang out and chat while our little ones entertain each other. I adore these women and feel very blessed to know them. They are sweet and kind and hilarious and I just really enjoy any opportunity I get to be around them.
Anyway, as we were gabbing we stumbled into a conversation that was a little sticky. We were talking about a situation that will be coming up soon in our area and the way we each think it should be tackled. It is a politically charged circumstance revolving around intense feelings and fears and innocent people who may end up hurt or mistreated if it isn't handled well.
We each had a solid perspective on the coming episode, but we each saw it from a unique viewpoint. One friend accidentally fell in the middle of this issue when it started last year and her vision of a solution went one way while another friend will get her fingers in it this year and her thoughts head a different direction.
When it came down to it, we didn't see eye to eye. Not one of us. All three of us had strong feelings about it, but none of them were in line with the feelings of the other parties. It was obvious as we continued to explain our opinions that no one was going to convince anyone of anything. We were all firmly attached to our viewpoints.
However, the beautiful part was that as each person spoke the other two listened intently NOT just waiting for the speaker to close her mouth so we could jump in with our own views but actually listening. We listened to each other -- you know, really hearing what was said -- and tried to see it from that person's perspective. It was actually kind of a beautiful thing.
I can't speak for the thoughts my friends were having, but for me I felt like I could really understand where the others were coming from, how their experiences and feelings had shaped their ideas and I could really see why they stood where they did.
Now, no one came away that day with an "oh wow, I see that you are right and I was wrong" moment. As far as I know we each feel pretty much the same about the situation after the heated discussion as we each did before.
But here's the thing. No one scorned the others labeling them as ignorant or uninspired (at least not out loud). No one stormed out because people wouldn't come around to her way of thinking. No one screamed. No one threw a tantrum. No one demeaned or belittled or even affronted the other women in the room. We talked about a tough topic -- one that absolutely will cause pain and heartache in some way or another -- we didn't agree, and we were still the same amount of friends when we came out of it that we were when we went into it.
And I love that.
I don't understand why so often in today's society we take on this notion that if someone doesn't see things the way that we do then they are unfit to be acknowledged and should be snuffed out as soon as possible. I do not believe that tolerance should mean forced acceptance. I loathe listening as someone screams for tolerance when what they mean is "you must convert to my way of thinking." I absolutely HATE watching as single issues sometimes become more important than relationships.
There are topics that live within you so deeply that it is painful when someone attacks them. That is just truth. It is part of life. At some point someone is going to vehemently disagree with something that you hold dear. But what you do with it from there, that is the vital choice.
Are you going to decide that you cannot abide the presence (or blog post or tweet) of a person who has a different view than you do on a beloved topic? Are you going to go on the offensive and personally and repeatedly attack them because of their ideals? Are you going to make your well loved issue the only thing in life that matters so if someone doesn't agree with you then they simply don't warrant your time? What does that make you? "You are supposed to respect my way of viewing the world but I don't have to afford you the same courtesy?" Something is wrong with that.
Let me be clear, I am NOT saying we should roll over and just accept the beliefs of everyone around us. I don't buy into the "just quietly sit by and let everyone think their own thing and lets just not bring it up so we don't accidentally disagree" philosophy. I believe we should all stand up and fight for laws and issues and ideas that are important to us. We should vote. We should campaign. We should express and explain and encourage our beliefs. We. Should. Fight. For. Right.
I am a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I hold firmly to the standards and ideals and values of my chosen religion. I know them to be right and I will not bend on that. This means that I have very firm feelings when it comes to things like abortion, gay marriage, human equality, Jesus Christ as my Savior, the importance of family etc. I will stand for those things.
That said, I have family and close friends who do not happen to agree with me on pretty much every single one of these issues. In fact, in several cases our views could not be more opposite.
But these are people I love. These are people I want to be around. These are good people, kind people, loving people and I hope they would say the same of me. I am grateful that even though the gap between a few of our beliefs really couldn't be wider, we can still respect and care for each other as people.
We may end up in a passionate debate from time to time. Feelings may end up bruised once in a while (on both ends) but in the overall scheme of everything we try not to let one (or two or three) concept -- no matter how deeply we feel about it -- clip all the other threads that bind us together.
It is not wrong to defend a heartfelt conviction. Seems to me it can't be too heartfelt a conviction if you aren't willing to defend it.
And yet, when all is said and done, we are all humans. We all get to chill on the planet together for whatever chunk of time God gives us. When it is all said and done, we are all on the same team. Most of us want what is good and loving and beautiful in the world. Most people are good people, even if we don't all agree on everything.
It seems like maybe we could put a little more effort into remembering that even though we are different -- even though we have varying goals and ideals and thoughts -- we are all breathing air, tending gardens, loving children, driving streets, reading books, basking in sun, struggling with budgets, complaining about commercials, singing songs, cooking food, helping with homework and on and on.
We should not set aside our values, that is what makes us who we are. But no matter our position on hot topics we can travel this planet together in mercy and compassion and kindness. We can be more than our differences.