On Friday night, after a group dinner, four of us stood outside the restaurant chatting. We were discussing a recent controversy, and as one person was expressing an opinion, another asked, “What do you mean by they?” And her tone strongly indicated that she was not terribly happy with him.
“Why are you mad?” he asked.
So she explained how it sounded as if he was blaming two or three people for having an agenda when that’s not what happened at all because she was part of the group that made the decision.
I stood there listening in amazement. Because here’s what happened next. The two people did not yell at each other. They didn’t run to their respective cars and not talk to each other again. They did not call each other names. Instead, they listened to each other’s opinion. And at the end, one said, “I didn’t know that. And I need to apologize.”
It’s not that one convinced the other over to the ‘right’ side. It was just that they understood that they were both decent people who happened to see the issue in two different ways. And they both agreed that almost everyone involved in the conflict was a decent person who thought he/she was doing the right thing. And while they were not going to agree on this issue, they were going to continue to respect each other and remain friends.
I watched in amazement because, unfortunately, this is not usually how the story plays out any more. If someone doesn’t agree with us, we tend to jump way too quickly to the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. On my Facebook page, my liberal friends are quick to label those who disagree with them as racists or uneducated buffoons. My conservative friends are just as good at labeling, although they tend to choose words such as anti-American or socialist.
I suppose that when we care about something deeply and see clearly how things are supposed to be, it is hard to even comprehend that others can’t see it. So we, perhaps without thinking, assign a reason to that: a reason that has something to do with their intelligence (or lack of) or with their evil intentions.
It happens everywhere. One only has to read the various comments on social media to see that the hasty judging and closed minds are on all sides of various political issues. But sadly, it can also be found closer to home. And it’s sad when friendships and working relationships become frayed. (Coincidentally, as I was writing this, my Timehop app reminded me that six years ago, two of my best friends stood in a parking lot yelling at each other about Sarah Palin.)
But Friday night was an example that this doesn’t have to happen. It reminded me that we can disagree, even get a little snappy with each other, and stay friends. We can actually talk through our disagreements. We can disagree strongly and still see the angels in our opponents.
Well, if not angels, flawed but decent human beings, just like ourselves.