We talk a lot about acceptance. About diversity. About being open to different kinds of people. And we do our best to achieve the creation of an accepting environment. Most of the time. Except, I think, when it comes to accepting those with whom we disagree.
Especially when it comes to fundamental issues and core beliefs, it is so easy to categorize the side with whom we disagree as “other.” To demonize those who stand on the other end of the political/religious/belief/opinion spectrum. It can be easy to forget that those on the other end are acting according to what they truly believe is best for the world. That we seem as bad to them as they seem to us.
It can be really hard to not be judgemental of them. It can be really hard to not think of them as stupid. It can be really hard to not put them to the side, and to not really accept that they are coming from an honest place and deserve a place in our community like anyone else.
Part of the challenge is that we want to convince them that we’re right–and sometimes education can make a difference–and sometimes one side or the other does end up being right. And it’s hard to do this education with respect and not insult. With compassion and not rejection. But we must.
It’s not easy–many things worth doing aren’t easy–but it’s important.
May we all challenge ourselves to listen to the other side more. And to respond to that other side with respectful disagreement. And to do our best to hear those individuals on the other side and understand that they’re trying to be their best selves and create the best world possible–even when that’s really hard.
And may we all realize that “they” want what “we” want–for the world to be better than it is now. Our differences lie in how we believe is the best way to get there. And those ways may be different–those paths may never converge. But we need to at least look at both maps. Because theirs is as real to them as ours is real to us. And it is only when people listen that we can see real change.
It is only then…When we all learn to listen to the other side. When we all engage in respectful disagreement. When we all come to the conversation with the understanding that their beliefs are legitimate–no matter how abhorrent we ourselves might find that idea…it is only then that we can come to a day when we can achieve the peace, the wholeness, the shalom that is at the heart of what all of us really want.
But the question remains: How do we do this? Especially when it’s about something that is at our core…