Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I have friends, neighbors and relatives with whom I disagree on any number of points such as the role of government, interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, the public and private choices we should be allowed to make, and the purpose of religion. I am a quintessential conservative. If I disagree with them on so many fundamentals, how is it that I manage to associate with them without the regular occurrence of hurt feelings? Quite often it is through realizing what we have in common and building upon that foundation, rather than trying to kick sand at them.

With some, I share a religion. With others, I share professional interests that span a wide range of technical fields. Ah, if politics could have right and wrong answers as straightforward as knowing whether a math equation was correct. With some, I share citizenship in a town, county, state or country that gives us a great deal in common.

With all of them, I share the world.

While I may have some slight influence over the beliefs and attitudes of others, I have no absolute control in those areas beyond myself. If I want to communicate with someone, I first have to understand them. This doesn't mean that I will accept all of their viewpoints. It just means that I can understand how they might feel the way they do. Sometimes I disagree with others at a most basic and profound level, yet I can still communicate if I understand what has made them feel that way.

Take our cat, for instance. She thinks that my arm is fair game for gnashing when she wants to play rough, and I've carelessly left an arm where she can reach. I don't approve of having new puncture marks, but I can understand that she wants to play. I may be able to teach her over time to not chew on me with those sharp little fangs, but my surest way to avoid bloodshed is through understanding her behavior and changing mine to present fewer painful targets. Sure, I still play with her, sometimes when she's in demon mode. I just have to allow her ways to express her desire to hunt, kill and eat small furry things by training her to chew on the toys, not the arm.

Communicating with people takes similar care, but in much larger doses. Sure, you can poke angry trolls with sticks and make faces at them for entertainment, but where is the challenge in that? Want to do something really challenging? Have a pleasant conversation about a controversial topic with someone who has a diametrically opposed viewpoint. Now pulling THAT off deserves praise. Think Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy and their friendship.

Destroying that which we hate is trivial if we don't mind setting aside morals and personal safety. Taking a stand for what you know is right requires getting out of your comfort zone, but is often a solitary effort. Building upon a common foundation is harder, but is much more worth the effort. Who knows? A friend may even grow to understand, then accept your views.

1 comment:

Phelonius said...

You have described many of my own relationships with great alacrity. My own relationship to you is not burdened by my religious beliefs, but rather a respect for who you are and what you do. I only hope that you would judge me along the same lines.

I have a very close friend here in Big D that is very much my antagonist in political talk, yet we remain very good friends indeed. He is my "closet liberal" friend, and I love the man. We make each other laugh, we have shared many things in our families, and yet when I vote I am comforted that my vote will cancel his out.....

We live now in interesting times. That is the old Chinese curse, yet that is our lot. What I wish to bring across is that the best example of a faith is the life that we lead in example. You folks have done that in spades, and I am reminded from time to time upon reflection that it is also my own lot to do what you have done.

God bless the differences, indeed, but it is also a job to bring understanding to those that do not have it. Republics are our blessing and our curse.