My momma always told me to avoid discussing politics or religion with folks if I wanted to maintain a peaceful relationship with them. Sooner than later, she warned, a difference of opinion is bound to occur, and it is hard for everyone not to end up with bruised egos and frazzled nerves in the process.
An equally wise man, the philosopher Cicero, put it this way: “the need to compel others to believe and live as we do cripples us, makes us a prisoner of our own negative thought patterns.” It’s an idea that is as true in our modern world as is was in ancient Rome. Until we can release the desire for others to approve of our choices, we remain stuck. You don’t need anybody’s consent to be who you are or believe what you choose to believe. But you don’t need to turn those opposing views into an ongoing argument either.
Somehow, the desire to be right causes us to become blind and closed-minded, which is never a good way to win friends and influence people. (Thanks, Dale Carnegie.) Rarely is there a positive response to strong-arm tactics or fighting words. And often, the quarrels get personal. Let’s face it: somebody always gets hurt during that kind of wrestling match.
In an ideal world, we could disagree well. We would listen attentively to each other’s ideas and mutually respect the individual perception from which those beliefs were formed. We would seek to understand first, and then, to be understood ourselves. We would pause to consider all sides to the question before formulating an answer. And we would resolve conflict by demonstrating tolerance and having an open mind. Ah yes, it all sounds so simplistic. But it isn’t. Somehow, the distance between expressing an opinion and causing an offense has become shorter and shorter. We live in a sensitivity danger zone, a virtual mine field of hurt feelings disguised as political correctness.
And we want to be right.
Making moral judgements of others because of where they stand on important issues can be destructive and damaging. But it is also terribly unfair.
The profound truth is that it is perfectly okay to not agree. Asking someone else to accept your values may mean that you are requesting that compromise their principles. You are, in essence, asking them to discard what they believe to be fair and true. Is it any wonder that this might be met with resistance?
We don’t have to concede on everything to get along, to practice courtesy and consideration. But we do have to demonstrate acceptance to form deeper human connections.
And therein lies the secret.
We are a cooperative society, created to accomplish more together than separately. America was designed to be a republic, dedicated to meet the social, economic, and cultural needs of an ever-changing population. It has never been a utopia; such a place doesn't exist. Everyone won’t always be satisfied; in fact, some never will be. That’s the honest-to-goodness truth.
However, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
By the way, the quote is routinely credited to Abraham Lincoln, a politician. He wasn’t the first to say it., however. It was in fact, spoken by Jesus, a savior. (Luke 11:17; Mark 3:25; Matthew 12:25) And perhaps we have lost sight of that bit of Biblical wisdom. Conflict weakens any country, erodes the morale and destroys all confidence. If we still believe in the national dream, we must become the UNITED States once more. Perhaps it is time to embrace the ideals upon which this country was founded. And we must each do what we can do make it happen. Our future depends on it.