By Alecia Rice
Q: I have a long-time best friend who’s Christian, Republican, kind, good-hearted and thoughtful. We’ve shared politically differing views on gun control, immigration, healthcare, etc. Lately, these issues have us questioning each other’s morals, which is creating problems in our relationship. What can I do to resolve this? — Other-Side-of-the-Fence
A: Dear Other-Side-of-the-Fence,
Lately, there’s a lot of talk as to whether maintaining a relationship with someone who “thinks that way” makes us “complicit” in what we feel is politically immoral. It may be semantics, but being complicit means that we’re actually participating in and encouraging wrong-doings with others which isn’t the case for most of us.
We’re all products of our upbringing and life experiences. Some people may seem to lack some of the moral fiber we aspire to, but if we judged each person morally, chances are we’d never have any friends. If a friend were treating children in an immoral way or hurting people directly, then we’d likely end that relationship, but if one merely differs in how we think things should be handled politically, is that a good reason to end long-term relationships? Maybe…or maybe not.
Should one desire to keep a friend with differing politics in their life, it’s advisable to set boundaries around how the offending issues will be discussed…or not. One might easily set ground rules for civil discourse, yet if either party is TOO passionate and dogmatic then that really doesn’t work. Sometimes we have to remove the topic(s) from the table to ensure no additional division while preserving some form of the relationship, although possibly in a different form.
Jesus is a symbol of unconditional love. Was he “complicit’ when he kept company with sinners? No. I think he loved everyone—even Judas—and allowed them personal access to positively influence and heal those on a path that didn’t serve the collective in healthy, positive ways. Did he adopt their ways? No. I think he knew that it would be harder for him to be a light for them if he turned them away. Whether one is a Christian or not, I’d ask “What would Jesus do?” I believe that he would love ALL unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean that we’re required to keep them close.
If one’s inner peace is shattered due to feeling that they’re doing something “wrong” by staying friends, then maybe it needs to end. I recommend discernment though, because there’s a slight difference in feeling culpable about being connected with someone with contrasting beliefs when, in fact, we’re annoyed that they don’t believe the same things that we do. Watch for the cognitive dissonance of the “echo chamber” which only hears what we want to hear.
We can’t influence those we have no connection with. Cutting them away destroys our ability to influence them through positive words, deeds and actions, which may leave them keeping company only with those of like minds who may lead them even further down their rabbit holes.
We can’t change another, merely ourselves. Judgment creates walls and divisions. Curiosity is expansive and respectful. It allows others their opinions which opens up the potential for understanding. Instead of judging someone who has a different opinion, I’d suggest asking neutral, expansive opening questions, such as “Why do you feel that way?” or “What led you to that conclusion?” You may learn something you didn’t know before.
If the relationship isn’t causing direct harm, one might err on the side of keeping a thin strand of attachment while allowing more space until we can return to a sense of normality. I believe our current divisions are more in our favor than we realize, because without them rising to the surface we wouldn’t engage in discourse to collectively decide our future path. Humans typically despise change. We generally won’t make big changes until we enter into a state of discomfort. I believe that our current state is assisting us in consciously ushering in a more humanitarian existence where ALL are considered equal without regard to race, sex, age, statehood, religion or socio-economic status. I suggest keeping our eyes and intentions inward and upward in hopes that we’ll eventually co-create greener pastures of harmony and brother/sisterhood.
Judgment only brings sadness and a painful sense of separation. Seek the Go(o)d in everyone while trying to practice compassion and curiosity instead of judgment. Standing in curiosity while creating space for others allows us to be the brightest light possible to build bridges across these divides. I think Jesus would do the same.
Alecia Rice integrates higher concepts with wisdom to bring forth balance, perspective and clarity. She’s a personal advisor, speaker and gatherer of women. For perspective on life issues, you’re invited to text questions and comments to 681-321-1109. Discussions continue at Ask Alecia on Facebook.