Why does my friend believe...
The impetus for the birth of this blog was an itch I had to create a "safe space" for me to voice opinions on all sorts of things of which some, if voiced on social media (I'm looking at you, Facebook), may cause a sh*tstorm of emotion and name-calling. So I decided I'd set up this corner of the world wide web, and if I had the urge to write about something that could be considered controversial, at least it would just be my little opinion on a small island on the interwebs, and not on a platform where my loved ones could attack each other and hurl insults and hurtful language.
But I've rethought that.
I actually don't want to put controversial opinions out on the web any more than the web needs another controversial opinion about something (it doesn't). I don't want any of my loved ones to feel alienated by my opinions or ideas, nor do I want to be seen as one who thinks their opinions are superior to others' - or that I'm too self-absorbed to take the time to consider their opposing ideas. Upon reconsideration, it seems my real issue isn't with needing a safe space for me so much as needing some space apart from social media (ahem: Facebook).
If you've spent any time on Facebook (and/or Twitter), you've undoubtedly seen a controversial post by a "friend" that has devolved into people calling each other hateful names and attacking each others' intellectual capabilities. Now regardless of whether you join in with your own two cents (about the topic or another's intellect), seeing those threads affect you. And more than likely, they probably affect how you think about the people making the comments more than how you feel about the initial topic raised. At least that's what I find is true for me. And I don't like that.
I like Facebook. I spend a considerable amount of time on Facebook - following the lives of my family and friends, admiring sweet photos of their kids and pets, and laughing at funny memes and personality tests (occasionally taking one to find out which tree leaf best represents my true "nature" - Hahaha, see what I did, there?). But lately I've found myself quickly scrolling past things of "controversial nature" because I don't want to engage in the dialogue... And by "engage," I mean, "read." I don't like having the love I have for friends and family challenged by my own ventromedial pre-frontal cortex (or something like that). I have always chosen to love someone based on their heart, not on their politics; I'd prefer to keep it that way.
I would never tell anyone what to do, but since this *is* my blog, here's something that has worked pretty well for me, especially recently - Make Believe. When scrolling past something quickly doesn't work (either because you wanted to read it or because it's just where the site refreshed), try doing what you (probably) did pretty often when you were a kid... Try playing "make believe" and "becoming" your friend.
See things from their perspective. Think about how they were raised - and not just how, but when and where. What do you know of their family? And I'm not talking about making elitist assumptions about them based on their education (or lack of) or their socioeconomic status. Of course these things play a role, but they don't make or break a person. Think about how those things have *affected* them; don't just put them in a box you can conveniently label. Or if you know nothing about their history, consider that, too.
Imagine being a black or brown person, raised with your loved ones imploringly explaining how you should behave around police so that you don't get hurt or killed. Then imagine seeing images of people who have the same brown skin as you being gunned down on TV/video. Try not to think about how *you* would feel in those instances, but how your friend might feel. Scared? Angry? Sad?
Imagine that from the time you were a child, you have understood abortion to be the equivalent to pulling out a gun and killing someone. Don't think about what *you* think constitutes "life," think about what your friend believes.
I'm not asking you to change or even challenge your opinions, I'm just saying that sometimes it helps me to "become" my friend or family member and realize that I'm not so different from them. We all have fears, we all get angry, we are all defensive. My opinions on things are very different from many of my friends and family... Likely from many of you reading this post. But I don't have to explain a single one to validate myself to you, nor you to me - or anyone... Because our value is not based on our opinions.
So family and friends, I am making several commitments to you right now:
I commit to listening to you if you want to talk to me, even if I don't agree with you; further, I commit to listen without condemnation.
I commit to trying to see life through your eyes because if I don't, I can't listen very effectively.
While I may have strong beliefs/opinions about things that are in complete opposition to what you believe, I commit to not calling names or saying hurtful things if I disagree with you.
If I have similar beliefs/opinions as you, I commit to not bashing my other loved ones because they don't.
I commit to continuing to love you because I choose to love your heart above all else (even if it means scrolling quickly past your "controversial" post on Facebook sometimes).
I'm not saying I'll be 100% successful at all of these, but I am saying I'm 100% going to try.