At the risk of humble-bragging, I think one of my better character traits is my ability to be impartial: to keep judgments to myself in an attempt to understand why people hold beliefs and values that I strongly disagree with.
That being said, everyone has their “hot button topics” that make impartiality next to impossible. The older I get, the more I realize that the “hot button” issues that grind my gears are similar to those of my family.
And that scares me.
Not because my family’s values are bad (though I’m biased), but because I fear becoming the kind of person I can’t stand: the kind whose beliefs are shaped more by her upbringing than personal experience. The kind of person who was taught what to think, rather than learning to think for herself.
The older I get, the more I realize something that would have horrified my college-aged self:
I am becoming a liberal, like everyone else in my family. I am finding it increasingly difficult to “tolerate” (I hate that word, but it fits) the uber-conservative views of some of my close friends.
Is this an accident? Have I gone full circle in my personal experiences, or am I becoming the person I was meant to be all along, because the environment I was raised in made that inevitable?
I’m not the expert on my own life that perhaps I ought to be, because I don’t know how to answer that question. I’ve had experiences that changed my mind on quite a few things, that’s for sure. No amount of liberal family values could have accomplished that.
What scares me is becoming the sort of person who sees everything in black and white, and cannot for the life of her listen to opposing viewpoints without smoke coming out her ears.
Just a few examples…
I have this visceral reaction every time I hear a woman say she’s not a feminist.
I get heart palpitations when I hear Christians get on their soapboxes about the evils of abortion, but somehow believe that turning away refugees is something Jesus would totally do.
I see waves of red for every Christian who equates homosexuality with rape and murder.
I am becoming the kind of person who thinks, Why is this issue not as obvious to you as it is to me????
Likewise, I get the same reactions when I tell people that I am a feminist; that I’m not convinced that homosexuality is sinful; that I think Jesus would gladly open the door for refugees, because he and his parents were ones.
For the sake of my sanity, I find myself constantly reevaluating what my “dealbreaker” issues are; which disagreements I can accept without losing friendships, and which ones are too personal to even retain acquaintanceship. Because something else I fear is living out the “I’m tolerant as long as you agree with me” liberal stereotype.
I’m sure quite a few people would say that’s exactly what I am, considering that I went on a Facebook un-friending spree after Trump won the election and removed every person I knew who voted for him, because I was so angry. I felt betrayed, as a woman and as a Jew (even if only a cultural/ethnic one).
Maybe I put too much pressure on myself to be open-minded. I remember all too well how painful it was to be rejected by Jewish friends who refused to give me the time of day when word got out that I’d converted, without giving me the chance to explain (hence why I felt the need to write a book). I hated feeling so misunderstood. I didn’t need people to agree with my beliefs, but I did need them to at least listen to me.
Sometimes just listening is the hardest thing any of us can do. Some issues are just too personal to practice impartiality. But the last thing I want to do is create an echo chamber without realizing it.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.