I posted this Voltaire quote on Instagram several weeks ago, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Among many happy face emojis was one half-hearted response from my friend Rick. Essentially, he disagreed with me. I wasn’t surprised. In fact, sometimes I don’t post my opinion on Instagram because I know Rick (and others who disagree with me) follow my feed. How could anyone disagree with freedom of speech? And though I wasn’t prepped for a full-on debate, I asked him what he meant by his comment.
For the next few weeks, Rick and I engaged in an ongoing conversation. I began our first interaction on Voxer (an app where one can leave long voice messages for another) by informing him that I don’t like conflict. Basically, please be nice to me. Our conversations ranged from Donald Trump, masks, lockdowns, friendship, Jesus, and included the occasional cuss word.
Rick went on rants and apologized when he was out of line. I repeated myself often and told him outright I disagreed with his viewpoint. Initially, I set out to correct Rick’s thinking. He was clearly wrong. I’m sure he was determined to convince me to see how wrong I was.
For days and weeks, we discussed current events, Joe Rogan, and the Biden administration. I’d share my perspective, and he would share his. At one point, I even cried because he acknowledged my pain. I think he chocked up a time or two as well.
Did Rick’s views and data change me? No.
Did my robust, heart-felt, sound arguments change Rick? I don’t think he budged an inch.
But this is what did happen. I came to respect him, and perhaps, he came to respect me a little too. We came to see that we assumed things that weren’t true about each other, and in fact, we had both been hurt over the past several years. We were both passionate, and we were both flawed.
Having these conversations with Rick didn’t change my political beliefs, but it changed something else in me. I didn’t need to be right anymore. Of course, I want to be right, and I still think I am right on a lot of the issues. But I didn’t need to be right. I realized that relationships trump right-ness.
I can be so focused on being right that I miss the relationship. So many relationships became fractured through the pandemic. So many arguments erupted, so many fights over freedom, so many fears drove us into separate corners like cockroaches scattering when a light flips on.
But Jesus teaches us to approach relationships in a different way.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to mount an attack with our best arguments. Jesus doesn’t say to come out swinging. Jesus doesn’t tell us to look down on other people who don’t see things our way. No, Jesus says, “Give your neighbor your cloak, turn the other cheek, be the good Samaritan.” Jesus says, “Be slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Jesus says, “Love your neighbor like yourself.”
I think we can all grow from talking to people who stand on the other side of issues. People who don’t agree with your political, theological, or ethical views deserve to be loved and heard. But the first step isn’t to change someone. The first step is to see the other person as human and loved.
I am human and can be wrong. I am human and worthy to be loved. They are human and can be wrong. They are human and worthy to be loved. The way forward isn’t to change people but to love them. Love may not change someone’s politics, but it will change you. As you love, you will become more like Christ. And this, my friends, is good.Leave a Comment
Elizabeth (Betsy) Hall says
So true! Loving someone has much more of a chance of changing them then yelling as the top of your lungs!!!!
Jesus used LOVE!
Debbie Crownover says
Thank you. My husband and I have some differences that really bother me some times. I am more sensitive than he is. I carry more responsibility than he and it hits a nerve with me sometimes. What you say is true…the relationship is more important than always winning the argument or having the other person change their views/actions.
I totally agree Debbie! Same here! Thanks for this reply!
And Anjuli, this is right on. I believe we are called to love with the love of Christ and this is truly transformative.
Thanks for sharing ❤️
JENNIFER E HASSEL says
Thank you for writing about this topic. I appreciate how you persevered in discussions with your friend despite his views being opposite of yours. I too abhor conflict. It is so much easier to agree to disagree and avoid talking about topics that are divisive. That you came to respect him, and possibly he came to respect you, is actually astonishing. I truly want to know how you handled the issue of racism that is inherent in certain political views. This is a painful sticking point for me since racism is anti- love, anti-Christian, anti- the teachings of Jesus. It is hard to love those who hate others, and even harder to stay in relationship with them.
Jill Calloway says
Oh, I needed to see this today. I tend to get so hurt over posts and comments from friends who have views that differ from mine. Kindness, humility, and the ability to listen- without having to be right are all things I need to remember. Thank you for this beautifully written reminder.
Ruth Mills says
Amen, amen, amen!
Kathleen B. says
Good thoughts to put into action to further peace in our corner of the world…
This is a program through story corp that works to encourage people to do just what you and Rick did, and the experiences of participants they’ve featured show they too could respect one another in spite of grave differences. Thank you for sharing your positive experience. It does instill hope.
“This special program, One Small Step: Courageous Conversations Across A Growing Divide, explores the idea that intentional conversations between partisans could be a catalyst for national healing.”
I will be sharing this with my sister and her daughter. They are going through issues right now and need to hear this. My prayer is they will both acknowledge the other is feeling hurt and they can’t change the past, but they can move forward and heal with God.
Well addressed Anjuli
Beth Williams says
I often have differing opinions than those of my friends. But because I can’t stand conflict, I simply agree to disagree & avoid certain topics with them. Simply put I love them the way they are-a flawed human just like me. Another tactic is to pray for them & the situation. God commands us to pray always about everything. That is basically what I do. Being right or not isn’t important. Showing this world more of God’s love is of utmost importance.
It’s always Good to hear “Truth”!
God is Good!
God is Love!
BC from BC says
Thank you so much for this. we all need to hear this especially as Christians. If it causes division, seperation and no unity it’s not from God. We all need to be kind and show God’s love through these uncertain times. We don’t have to agree however we need to respect each other and we all have the right to choose, and know that our example comes from the Bible and Christ himself. It’s so difficult these days and many think they have entitlement to behave the way they are. Let’s focus on what’s right in God’s eyes. Love, Joy, Peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. 🙂
Carol Leboeuf says
Amen, love covers all, thank u, very timely.
Jessica Sommer says
Marina Teramond says
To tell the truth, I really like the message of your article and I totally share your point of view. In my opinion, it is really important not to think one-sidedly and accept only your worldview, but try to understand other people. I think that if we do not condemn another person who does not share our point of view and try to pick up something from him, we will only improve our personality. You are absolutely right that we shouldn’t change people, but we should love them because it reveals the best part of ourselves. I think that in this life we can change only ourselves and we need to strive for that by becoming more understanding and wiser. Of course, we all are mere mortals and we all make mistakes, but it doesn’t indicate that something is wrong with us. I think that it indicates that we all have our own path and we all have strengths and weaknesses, but in any case we all deserve love.