A few nights ago, a friend blew up at me. I haven’t seen him for a couple of days, so I assume he’s still mad at me. This guy is a Q’Anom follower, against masks and a die-hard Republican. I am registered independent and try to stay out of political discussions, but he asked me a direct question and I didn’t want to just ignore him. He said, “I read this stuff online about transgender…and it makes me so angry. I said, “Don’t read it then.”
This sent him off into a flurry of conversation—I really can’t remember everything he said—but he was in defense mode. “You don’t expect me to bury my head in the sand,” he said. When I suggested he love his neighbor where he is at because getting angry at people across the country and telling people who already agree with you doesn’t do you any good. He finally stormed off and told me he didn’t respect me anymore.
Most of us are in a tug-of-war with somebody or some group. Conservative / Liberal, Mask / No Mask, USA / Other Countries, or Christians / different faiths. It really doesn’t matter who the other is – as long as we have identified them as other, they are a threat. I remember feeling this way as a die-hard conservative and also when my views moved toward the other side (more toward the middle). Recently, I have been trying to move out of this mentality. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions, but what is fading is the need to vanquish the other group.
US vs THEM
When there is an US, we often develop some troubling assumptions. We assume, we could do better in all areas if it wasn’t for them. After all, I’m afraid because of them, they are dangerous, or they are holding us back. Both sides usually feel that way even about the exact same issues. We assume they are sinners, and even though we know we have shortcomings, they are certainly worse than US. Our shortcomings are minimized and theirs are exaggerated.
When we identify a THEM or other, it is easy to dehumanize them. The vast majority of evil in the world is always attributed to THEM. They are crazy, sinful and certainly out to get us, so we can’t trust any of them. They are certainly evil and at the least, they are causing the things that trouble us. We don’t think this way automatically, but eventually we always come to these conclusions.
What if there was no them?
What if the problems of this world became OUR problems to solve? What if we discovered that we are all good with some room for improvement, instead of projecting our insecurities onto others. What if we purposed to do this together, realizing that we have some similarities and we also can celebrate our differences. We don’t have to change each other, even though we don’t agree, but maybe, more like Jesus, we could have compassion for each other.
This is the world I want to live in. I want to experience a world where everyone doesn’t necessarily agree, but one that agrees to work together. Fear causes us to need to change people, true love would accept them where they are. Change is most always gradual and needing to change people only exaggerates the worst parts of us and drives us further apart.
Let’s try to make progress
Maybe we could begin by finding peace where we are. I have found that peace requires that we admit that we don’t know all the answers yet. When I began say more often “I don’t know,” I began to find comfort that I am on a journey and not at a destination.
If we find peace where we are, then it is likely we can accept them where they are. This doesn’t mean that we agree with or like their position, but because we are beginning to see them as part of us, we understand that they are also on a journey. We don’t have to change or convince them today—their change will probably be in a quiet time alone, not in the middle of a debate.
Because they are part of us, we can also love them in the meantime. I have learned to say the following phrase in my head because some people take it wrong. Now I say to myself, “I understand where you are.” This helps me remember that I haven’t always believed what I now believe.
I understand that there are things we just can’t tolerate. And for those things, we have to quietly distance ourselves. A resolve to not participate in certain things is sometimes the loving thing to do. But, trying to convince someone immediately hardly ever happens and especially not in public.
Maybe instead of changing the world, we should just agree that the world needs to change and that it will only change when we come together.