Last week I received an email from a longtime reader who wanted me to know she was unsubscribing because of my newsletter about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was polite. She expressed appreciation for all the years of support my words had provided. And she said goodbye without explanation, just that it was time to “part company.”
Now and then I get messages like this when something I write pushes a button. I get it. I have views that aren’t shared by everyone. But what bothers me is how quickly we dismiss people (and views) that are different. I say “we” because I catch myself doing the same thing and I’m working to change that.
I have people in my life whose beliefs contradict my own and yet they remain in my life. Not because of history, but because of love and because they challenge me to work through my tendency to judge, to dismiss, or to walk away.
Trust me, sometimes it would be easier to walk away than to stay and work through the intense feelings that come with heated differences. But I do so because I want to build tolerance muscles. I want to give people a chance, to entertain new perspectives, and to learn to be gracious and open-minded in spite of my reactions.
That said, I don’t debate issues for sport, and I don’t accept inappropriate behavior.
After receiving the email from the woman on my list, I thought about something my husband Michael said a few years ago. It’s something I recall quite often.
In 2016, during one of my retreats, a young woman stood up and asked how to deal with a friend who had different political views. She loved her friend and yet felt conflicted about how to make the relationship work. Without missing a beat, Michael replied, “I do my best to remember my humanity. If a woman in this room walked toward me and tripped and fell, I would never ask about her political views before I helped her up. My instinct would be to jump in and help.”
Can relationships last when there are conflicting values? Are we supposed to stay connected when our views and opinions become so polarized? Honestly, I don’t have the answers. But what I do know is this: How I respond to a close friend in crisis who holds opposing views, tells me a lot about the importance of the relationship beyond our differences.
Just something to think about this week… ❤️