Why Ending Relationships Isn’t the Answer to Disagreement

Moms, it’s a wild time right now.

It feels like the world, our country, our neighbors are more divided than ever. Many people are justifiable hurting, and both ends of the spectrum are not happy with where current events / our country are / is headed. It seems that people, more than ever, are ready to verbally fistfight, taunts and insults mixed into debate platforms. It’s getting more ugly out there.

A recent trend I’ve noticed on my Facebook in the last few weeks is when fighting has become so divided, frustration and anger is so high, people have started to say, ”If you don’t agree, unfriend me.” And while I understand the desire to stand in your ground, unwavering, I think this is misplaced.

When we hold the tension with different views, we start to grow.

As satisfying as it can be to just surround ourselves in an echo chamber, all it does is boost our ego up to say, “See? I knew it. We are right and the other side is wrong.” But I’ve learned something different along the way. That few times is one side right and one side wrong. That our world is not easily defined as black and white and the truth lies somewhere in the gray. You can be right and wrong at the same time. And the more we try to put ideas and opinions in absolutes – “Everyone who thinks X is evil” – the more we stray further from the truth.

We are made up of so much more than simple talking points.

We are complex beings who, more times than not, want the same thing at the end of the day. We want less violence, our children safe, equal treatment, those who are in need have access to food and water, among other things.

I do feel the need to give a disclaimer right here so I am not misunderstood. Of course there are some subjects that are outright harmful such as racism, or wanting to purposefully treat people unfairly, and I am not advocating for that to be tolerated. But there are many other issues that have become so politicized that don’t have to be.

My husband and I both come from families of different views. Only surrounded by people who always think like us is a reality we never had. If we were to end every relationship who disagrees with us, we would hardly have any family left. I don’t think this is beneficial to us nor our daughter. There is so much goodness to still experience even with those who don’t agree with you on everything.

Recently there was a politically charged weekend and we were planning a visit to my in-laws for the weekend. I hoped certain topics wouldn’t come up as I didn’t want to argue and hurt any aspect of my relationship with my second pair of parents. And to be frank – I still had conflicting feelings on the subject matter; I wasn’t quite sure how to voice where I stood. As we gathered in the living room after dinner for a glass of wine to catch up, the dreaded topic came up, specifically as my mother-in-law asked for our opinions and how we were feeling. The four of us, respectfully, gave our opinion, which led into an open discussion.

And while there were certain parts we definitely disagreed with, I was heartened to hear the areas we did agree with. I was further moved when my parents-in-law explained that no matter what happens in the political atmosphere, they never want it to hurt our relationships together. And even if we disagree at times, it is important to hear how each other is doing – how and where they are hurting, as well as how we all can continue to support one another. The conversation ended with such a compassionate and empathetic note, I couldn’t help but feel awed and personally touched at the conclusion.

This is why it is important to stay in the strong wave and tension of differing ideas.

I know I walked away with a new perspective and I can only hope they did too. This is where growth and compromise and understanding and empathy live. One of my favorite authors of all time has this transformative quote:

“In order to empathize with someone’s experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it, and not how you imagine their experience to be.” – Brene Brown

I keep these words close to my heart and try to remember them for those tough conversations. And I hope and pray that we can stop seeing one another as a political party, member of a certain ideology or philosophy, and instead continue to embrace diversity of thought and seek first to understand, than to be understood.

A kid at heart, Katie loves all things writing, Harry Potter and musicals. At any moment, she is down for either a cup of coffee or margarita. Her passions are building and improving her community of Lafayette, where she was born and raised, and teaching her one daughter to have a British accent. (Not so successful at that last part yet). She spends her day as a nonprofit ambassador, helping nonprofits amplify their mission and creating more social good.

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