The day I started the 7th grade was the day I became the only "farm-kid" in a school over over 1000 students. Owning livestock and living on land never seemed strange to me, but to my classmates who lived in suburban homes and bought their eggs from the store, it was a whole new world. As strange as it was to others that my family raised our own steaks, it was even more challenging for me to accept the fact that some people didn't eat meat at all! I mean, what did these "Vegetarians" even consume? Vegetables?!
That year I learned the basics of pre-algebra, over 1000 Latin and Greek roots and stems, and that human beings can, and do, have fundamental differences.
I haven't always been the best at humanizing those I disagree with (especially when it comes to those pesky vegetarians ;)). I've used words like, "they" and "those people," categorizing these human beings that make different choices than I do and creating a divide between us, instead of building on the potential of a relationship.
If we wish to create progress in the world we live in today, to truly make a difference in our communities and country, then we can't afford to simply tolerate those that are different than us. Be it dietary choices, religion, political belief, sexual preference, or all of the above, we can work with, and maybe even love, people we disagree with.
Here's a few we ways to love those that see the world differently than we do.
Be Curious, Yet Confident
Seek first to understand. We've heard this before, but often the seeking to understand comes with a caveat- our desire to fix, or at the very least, respond to who we are listening to. Be curious in nature and show an eagerness to learn from those that are different. Remember, simply learning about others does not mean we change who we are. Being confident in our beliefs should make it easier to learn about others, not harder.
Differentiate between beliefs and emotions.
Do your actions stem from a set of core beliefs, or do you simply feel strongly about something because you've always felt that way? A week ago I got into an argument with my wife about how to properly load the dishwasher. Last time I checked, dish geometry is not a core value of mine. Is what you're fighting for being fueled by emotion or principle?
Tolerance can only take us so far. If we want to see change in our families, friends, communities, and world, we must truly love those who are different.
Make a list of the things that upset you most in the world. Then ask yourself if your frustration is justified.
How many of your friends vote differently than you do?
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" - Galatians 5:13-14 ESV
P.S. No vegetarians were harmed in the making of this newsletter.
I have close friends that eat differently than I do, and trust me, they aren't offended :)