A college friend recently posted on Facebook that while she doesn’t limit her friendships to people who view the world exactly as she does, she will cut people off who are intolerant or outright hateful (basically, she’s describing the same boundaries that I outlined in this post).
At the time we met, she was (and is) adamantly pro-choice. I was adamantly certain that abortion is murder, and women who have them should be arrested and jailed (let’s just say that my views today are much more nuanced). I was (and still am) devoutly Christian, while she’s “spiritual but not religious.” Somehow, we ended up becoming friends — she was even one of my bridesmaids.
The funny thing is, if I could meet my former self today, I’d probably “unfriend” immediately — not because I don’t share College SB’s theology or politics anymore, but because I have so little patience for lack of nuance these days. I’d so much rather read the thoughts of a person I disagree with and be invited into a discussion, as opposed to “This is why I’m right, and the rest of y’all can suck it.”
This was the dialogue that ensued when I commented on my friend’s post this week:
It’s funny how God can use people outside your tribe to teach you things. I have been far too quick to write people off. Some may have needed to be shown the door for their callousness and inability to listen, but not all of them. I know now that in more than a few cases, the rude person who was unwilling to listen was me.
I’ve made a new pact with myself, and with God: as long as I can still hold fruitful conversations with people whose beliefs are as different from mine as Christianity is from Satanism, I will fight for those friendships with all I have. Maybe those friendships won’t be super close, but that’s fine; it’s in the conversation that real work is being done. It’s in these discussions, about everything from gay marriage to Black Lives Matter to why pineapple never belongs on pizza, that God shows up, reveals his grace, and makes me humble.
If God could do that with the dialogues between my college friend and I, then maybe, just maybe, he can do the same with the high school acquaintance who can’t understand white privilege…but wants to. Or the former coworker who voted for Trump because of her strong pro-life stance…but is willing to hear me out on why I believe pro-choice candidates are the ones whose policies are more effective at lowering abortion rates.
Reaching agreement isn’t always the point (although it sure is nice when it happens). Rather, it’s the art of stepping into the unfamiliar, and listening with the intent to fully understand.
I should note that these types of conversations require a lot of energy, and sometimes, you may require space as a form of self-care. That’s okay. There’s a season for surrounding yourself with the like-minded, and a season for actively engaging with the not-so-like-minded. Pray about which one you’re currently in, but don’t leave that work undone. The future of society depends on it (to put it lightly).