Understanding Amidst Conflict

Politics has this subtly unnerving way of creating conflict in otherwise peaceful relationships. Over this last election, I developed this horrible habit where I would unconsciously categorize people in my head based on how much their political views agreed with my own. As my daily conversations with people inevitably turned to politics, I would closely watch for how people reacted to the mention of certain political ideas and take note of it as a key factor in how I saw them as a person and how I viewed our relationship as friends, family or classmates. Even when I outwardly put up a cordial front when people expressed political views that I disagree with, inwardly I would unconsciously make a mental note to think less of the person and, in certain instances, try and limit contact with them. It was as if I thought of my own point of view as the ultimate truth about how things are in the world and saw anyone with differing opinions as ignorantly minded or consciously evil—worthy only of pity or contempt.

Luckily, I had an experience that forced me to confront the absurdity of measuring the value of a person by their political views. The opportunity came when I ran into a friend who I respect a lot and think very highly of as I was walking to the library. We spent some time catching up on the different changes that had happened in our lives since we’d last seen one another and talking about how school was going. As our conversation turned to politics, I pressed him for his opinion on a few issues that I felt very strongly about. To my horror, he expressed to me views that were in stark contrast to my own. My mind felt caught in the unsolvable depths of paradox as I struggled to reconcile how this person who I knew to be well-informed and genuinely good had political views that in my mind meant that he was either ignorant or malicious. As I grappled to make sense of the situation, I was forced to consider a radical alternative—that maybe a person’s political views don’t actually affect their worth as a person.

This idea deeply bothered me for a while. I felt that there were things that I had experienced in my life that had profoundly impacted the way that I view certain political issues and that I could not simply untangle myself from these experiences in order to give a free pass to people who had views that I saw as inherently wrong. Resolution finally came as I felt the Spirit gently remind me that my place is not to judge people but to love people. The issue never was about whether I was more right than the people I was judging. It matters more that I focus on loving people without strings attached than that I try to defend my political views.

In a practical sense, this new perspective has helped me to see people who have different ideas than I do as human beings. In the same way that I feel so strongly about certain issues because of the things I have experienced in my life, I am more willing to allow for the fact that everyone has their own set of beliefs because of who they are now and who they have been before. It is easier for me to see everyone’s beliefs as valid, even if I do not agree with them.

I am in no way am claiming to have mastered the art of being non-judgmental when it comes to politics, but it has helped me so much to remember to focus on love. When I think about how much God loves me and how much His Son Jesus Christ has done to help me overcome my own faults, it becomes easier to love those around me. In all of this I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns:

Savior, may I learn to love thee,

Walk the path that thou hast shown,

Pause to help and lift another,

Finding strength beyond my own.

Savior, may I learn to love thee—

Lord, I would follow thee.

 

Who am I to judge another

When I walk imperfectly?

In the quiet heart is hidden

Sorrow that the eye can’t see.

Who am I to judge another?

Lord, I would follow thee.

 

I would be my brother’s keeper;

I would learn the healer’s art.

To the wounded and the weary

I would show a gentle heart.

I would be my brother’s keeper—

Lord, I would follow thee.

 

Savior, may I love my brother

As I know thou lovest me,

Find in thee my strength, my beacon,

For thy servant I would be.

Savior, may I love my brother—

Lord, I would follow thee.

I hope to be able to see past my own prejudices in order to help those around me feel that they are loved, regardless of our perceived differences.

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