She wasn’t laughing or joking when she said it.
We were at a staff lunch when my friend and co-worker snarkily shared that she’d no longer be inviting “those neighbors” to her home. “Those neighbors” were people who had political signs in their yard for the presidential candidate I planned to vote for.
That was 16 years ago. I still remember the pit in my gut when she so easily dismissed people who didn’t see the world as she did. And in doing so, she essentially dismissed me.
Messy Miracle, it doesn’t need to be this way.
What if we decided to promote unity instead of adding to division? What if we saw each other as individuals whose unique life experience influenced their ballot choices? What if the next time someone important in your life pitches a yard sign or posts on social media for a candidate other than yours, you make a deliberate decision to look beyond the politics to the soul of the person sharing it?
We can do this! We can love a person even when we can’t stand their politics. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
People are more important than politics.
I wanted to test this statement, so I asked my Instagram followers if they believed it to be true. Most of them did. And while my Instagram community doesn’t perfectly represent our entire country, they confirmed what I had suspected. We BELIEVE people are more important than politics, so why don’t we BEHAVE like they’re more important? I think we want to, but end up getting in our own way. The good news is that we can get ourselves out of the way!
I’m not suggested you subject yourself to unhealthy people or be best friends with everyone on the other side of the political aisle. Boundaries are important and unhealthy people need not consume your energy. However, I do believe we should avoid burning a relational bridge with someone in our life S I M P LY because they vote differently than we do. Are you with me? Let’s go…
Here’s how you can practice loving people who have different political views without giving up your own.
1. Recognize the Wall and Push It Down
Unless you’re Jesus, Mr. Rogers or Pollyanna, your first inclination when you see or hear a view that’s different from yours is to put up a wall in your heart and mind. I actually feel my wall go up in my body too. It’s an innate defense mechanism that launches you into fight, flight or freeze mode. Most of us stay there with our wall up and begin to defend our point of view. This is REACTION mode. You want to stay out of that place. Nothing good happens there. Instead, notice when your wall goes up and make a decision to RESPOND instead of REACT. You do this by pushing down the wall. Take a deep breath and tell your internal wall that you are perfectly fine and don’t need it to defend you. This is not an emergency. After you push it down, it will probably keep trying to come up. That’s ok. Just keep knocking it down. Again. And again. And again.
2. Find Perspective
With open space between you and the person you disagree with, give yourself some perspective. In politically charged seasons, every disagreement feels amplified. It can FEEL like our future happiness, success, even life itself depends on putting this stake in the ground. Voting is important, yes. Your viewpoints are important, yes. However, there is a much bigger story taking place that is way more important than this election. Call it the universe. Call it destiny. I know it to be God. And God is truly in control. I think He looks at our obsession with politics much like a parent views their child’s obsession with the latest toy. It’s a phase. And it’s a phase that changes like the wind. I’m not belittling the impact of your vote. I’m only saying that God is greater and can handle whatever outcome occurs. He works the good in everything and one day when you are on your death-bed, I don’t think you’ll be thinking about who won in 2020. I do think, however, that you’ll be reflecting on the people who came in and out of your life. When my life on this side of heaven ends, I want to know that I loved them well.
3. Engage Your Curiosity
People who are different from you are actually very interesting. What a boring place it would be if we all looked, acted and thought the same way. So, why do we try to force people into a boring black and white box? I’ll be honest here. I used to feel uncomfortable when talking or listening to someone who didn’t see the world the same way I do. In fact, I would start to make counter-arguments in my mind and often tune them out completely. Then I stopped trying to defend my point of view and started practicing RADICAL CURIOSITY. Instead of issuing counter-arguments, I started asking questions. Instead of defending, I started engaging. And what I found is that the more curious I became, the less frustrated I was at our differences and the more encouraged I became about the values we all share.
- Curiosity does not equal agreement. You don’t have to agree with someone in order to listen and love them.
- Here are some great questions/phrases to foster curiosity in your relationships with people who think differently than you.
- Your viewpoint is so interesting. How did you come to that conclusion?
What experiences from your past shaped the way you look at this issue now?
I know we disagree on this subject, but I really want to understand more about your views. Do you mind helping me understand how you landed on this perspective?
4. Agree to Disagree and Move On
After you’ve listened and learned, you can acknowledge your differences and move on. Remember, the point isn’t to change anyone’s mind. The point is to understand where they are coming from. Often, after I’ve engaged with someone in this way, I no longer feel annoyed or resentful of their opinion. And even if they don’t reciprocate the understanding or ask me about my views on the subject, the relationship just feels improved, overall. Taking the high road is a lesson worth learning. If more people did, there would be so much more room to breathe.
Remember my friend who hurt me without even realizing it? I hadn’t yet learned these tips back then. Instead, I allowed hurt and bitterness to grow in my heart, much like many of us do today. Just like every vote matters, so does every person. Will you join me letting the world know there is hope for love to win, even when we disagree? Save the image below and post on your social media feeds. Let’s cut through the chaos today and light up the digital landscape with love.