Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Differences

Can people with different beliefs get along? Can they even be friends? I recently discovered during a conversation that a new acquaintance of mine had some very different political opinions than I do. Now, I won't go into details, because I do not have strong political leanings. We'll just say she made a statement supporting someone in politics whom I don't consider worthy of respect. My husband and I have different political ideas, but we agree on our opinion of this political figure. He is more vocal than I am, and started to debate the topic. When it became clear that our dinner companions were not joking, I changed the subject.
Later, I found myself wondering what else they could be hiding beneath their seemingly normal outward appearances. Does that make me shallow, opinionated and judgemental? Decidedly so. I work toward an open mind and an open heart on a daily basis, and we're not talking about hate-filled or violent people, so why did this conversation affect me so much? I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who have different backgrounds and beliefs than I do. Most of the time it adds interest to our interactions, and I wind up learning something new. However, acceptance of differences is challenging. We have to acknowledge that we may not be "completely right" in whatever we believe, because clearly others believe something else.
That's usually pretty easy for me to wrap my head around. This time, I honestly hadn't considered that someone might share an opposite view. I feel humbled, because I felt so strongly "right" when they spoke that I ignored their other qualities in that moment. I instantly questioned their intelligence and wondered if we could still be friends. Wow. That is a slippery slope to a shouting match and never speaking again.
There is an old saying: "Would you rather be right or happy?" This can help us to determine if our opinions are getting in the way of our relationships. Mine were in this instance, and it was surprising to me because I haven't had to release my need to argue in a really long time. There is a time and place for intelligent debate, but there are also times when no one will change their mind based on the conversation, and feelings can only end up getting hurt. So, the best answer is a deep breath, recognition that my opinion is not the only one, and people are allowed to disagree with me. It still isn't easy to let this one go, but I will breathe into my heart and love their other qualities, since they will have to do the same toward me!

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