Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You Should Be Friends With Those People

This isn’t a post about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Nor is it about keeping people around to fuel your addiction to drama and debate. 

This is about learning to love and seeing others as complex human beings. 

I am a conservative Christian who believes in the humanity of the unborn, the 2nd Amendment, that true marriage is between a man and a woman, and most other so-called traditional values. I am a proponent of small-government and a critic of public education. I do not like President Obama, and honestly think he’s bad for the country and kinda evil. However... 


There are people in my life that I love that completely disagree with me on much of that or even all of it. Friends who put Obama stickers on their cars. Friends who are die-hard feminists who would gladly volunteer at an abortion clinic if they had the time. Friends who support Socialism as a form of government. Friends who don’t think private citizens should own guns. Friends who are - horror - atheists. 

And I am a better person for it. 

And I am a better person for it. 

That was an intentional repeat, by the way -so you don’t miss it. I got to know these people through various shared life experiences and/or common interests. I allowed myself to know them and care about them and, in the process, see that they are moms and dads who love their kids like I love my kids, husbands and wives who want to make their marriage work like I want to make my marriage work, people who care about the suffering of others like I care about the suffering of others. They are complex human beings just like I am. 

In his book You Are Now Less Dumb, author David McRaney, speaking about the illusion of asymmetrical insight,* writes:

[It] clouds your ability to see the people you disagree with as nuanced and complex. You tend to see yourself and the groups you belong to in shades of gray, but others and their groups as solid and defined primary colors lacking nuance or complexity.

No one wants to be labeled and then evaluated only through that label. Nor does anyone deserve it. But we do it, and then we stop seeing the people behind the opposing viewpoints. 

Once we do that, we can’t have honest, respectful conversations because we can't acknowledge the valuable humanity of the person we’re talking to. 

We start using terms like “those people.” 

Oh, I’m still guilty of this. But by remaining friends with “those people” instead of writing them off like they’re cardboard characters in this world just to annoy me and squash my beliefs, I know that I can continue to push back against that natural tendency. And I can see people as people. 

Because Jesus loves them as much as he loves me.

Thank you to all my friends who challenge me to love outside my comfort zone. You know who you are. 

*The illusion of asymmetric insight is the misconception that "[we] celebrate diversity and respect others' points of view," when the truth is that "[we] are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others."