“Learn to speak up with courage and civility. This is a fine line. On the one hand, we cannot be intimidated into silence by intolerant voices that claim to represent “progress” and “open-mindedness.” Such voices do not represent progress, and we cannot allow them to silence us. But by the same token, we must state our views with genuine civility. This isn’t the time for anger. So, when you speak up, speak calmly. Smile a bit. Seek true understanding. Acknowledge legitimate points. And explain why the freedoms (and I would add beliefs) you defend are so important to you, your family, and your church—make it personal. Stand firmly for principle while understanding that in some areas we will have to compromise to protect our most vital freedoms.” Lance B. Wickman
There is an unnecessary war between the Mormon community and the LGBT community. Let me stop right here and be clear that not everyone in those communities is contributing to this war, but it is real and ongoing. Denying its existence is just as bad as participating in it. It’s a war of differing beliefs, views, perspectives, and opinions. This war, however, isn’t only found in the differing views between the Mormon community and the LGBT community. It’s found in almost every situation where there are differing views.
In these wars, justification is made in attacking others while defending one’s personal views and beliefs. Each side is begging the other side to be more willing to listen and to understand. Each side is criticizing the other side for their lack of Christian behavior. Each side is frustrated with the other side for belittling as they defend and stand up for their views. Each side is getting tired of those on the other side who are unwilling to make room for their views. Tired of not being heard and validated. Yet, and here is the irony, they are unwilling to make room to hear the other side. They want to be heard but don’t want to hear. It’s so easy to be on your side and to see the shortcomings of those on the other side. Standing with our weapons in hand, ready to defend and stand up for our views, feeling so frustrated that those on the other side are not willing to make room for our views. We get so focused on defending that we don’t even consider that we just might be guilty of the same immature behaviors of those we view as our opponents. Do we even realize that we are treating them and their views the very way that we are angry at them for treating us and our views? Our anger and our hurt may be legitimate, but does that really justify us treating them and their views poorly as well?
What does it mean to really make room for someone’s differing views and beliefs? What does it mean to respect someone’s view that is different from our own? How do make room and respect another’s differing views and still maintain integrity for our own views and beliefs?
Too often we see those who have a particular view belittling those who hold an opposing view. And we point out how they are so intolerant of our view and how they are being bigots and insensitive and hypocrites. We demand that they grow up and make room for our views to be heard…while we completely silence them on theirs.
And maybe those with a different view are being jerks about it. Maybe they are belittling those with different beliefs. Maybe. But their immaturity does not free us from the responsibility to act with maturity. Their lack of willingness to understand our view does not justify us not making the effort to try and understand their view. Their poor behavior never justifies our poor behavior. It’s not about an eye for an eye. It’s not about: “If you’re going to push than I’m going to shove”, and feeling completely justified because you’re doing it in the name of standing up for your views and your people. Nobody wins with that mentality.
Views about religion, LGBT, politics, parenting, gun rights, public education, and the right way to hang toilet paper will always have numerous sides and perspectives. All those views have the destructive power to divide people. But all those views, all those opposing views, have the power to create beauty and depth and strength among people…not in spite of the differences but because of the differences.
Someone I love dearly came to me with some views and opinions that were uncomfortable for me to deal with. Her views went against some of my views. And you know what, my views made my friend uncomfortable too because they went against her views. But feeling uncomfortable is okay. That discomfort can become a source of growth, and even more importantly, it can deepen your capacity to love and to understand.
To make room for another’s view doesn’t mean you have to adapt their view and accept their beliefs. Making room for the views of others doesn’t mean you have to toss your views aside and disregard your beliefs. And having integrity for your views and beliefs doesn’t mean that you get a free pass to be a close-minded jerk.
And just because someone is sharing their views doesn’t mean that they are attacking those with a differing view. Being clear and honest about your views and beliefs in a respectful way is not the same as being a jerk. You’re not being attacked when someone starts talking about their view just because it differs from your own view.
Most likely talking about our views will cause some discomfort and typically what happens when that discomfort sets in is that we put up our guard, get defensive, and immediately start blaming others for being bigots.
Why do we feel so threatened by the views of others?
I think, for starters, we all could do a much better job in how we share our views. At times we feel attacked, belittled, and threatened because we are being attacked, belittled, and threatened. But I also see those who are being attacked, belittled, and threatened doing the same thing to those whose views oppose their own. It’s a vicious cycle that fuels itself and runs like wildfire on a hot, dry, windy day. Just because you feel strongly about your view and just because you view deserves to be heard doesn’t mean you can justify your poor behavior.
Having open conversations with those whose views are different than yours is hard. It just is. It’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s uncomfortable. It takes a high level of maturity to enter into these types of conversations and to be able to share your views with respect and to listen with respect. It takes a high level of maturity to be willing to understand another’s view especially when it puts pressure and challenges your view. It takes a high level of maturity to be able to share your view without trying to bulldoze the other person’s view.
In a conversation with psychotherapist Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife about making room for the differing views of others, she said this:
“I try to push myself on what I believe is a wise perspective on an issue, irrespective of what political party might claim it. And what’s legitimate in the perspective of a person who holds a different view than I do? There’s a lot of value in making room for divergence. I think it’s part of any good society.
And I think at the core of Christian theology is the notion that love is more important than ideology. Love is what brings you to wisdom, not ideas per se.
Truly caring about other human beings is what will turn you into a wise human being. Any ideological frame, while it can be helpful, is not the most important thing in becoming wise. Rather, loving the people around you and grappling with their views and their experiences are what encourages development and growth in them and yourself. That’s what will make you kinder and wiser.”