We Can Disagree… Respectfully

respect

There are certain trends I can get behind. Accepting leggings as pants? Yes, please! Binge watching TV shows? Um, is there a better way to watch television? The trend I’m noticing lately, however, is not one I can get behind. It’s the idea that something can only be accepted as true if it’s wrapped up in our own personal experiences.

“That never happened to me, so it must not be real.”

“My experience doesn’t include that particular issue, so it must not really be a problem.”

“That wasn’t my truth, so how could that possibly be yours?”

As a blogger and an everyday run-of-the-mill social media user, I’ve seen it happen over a range of topics from parenting choices like vaccinations to weighty social issues such as race relations. All of which can be very real and deeply personal.

I get it. Our experiences and our stories are what shape who we are. It’s what drives me, and so many others, to write them down in the hope that someone, somewhere, might read it, relate, and walk away feeling less alone. But when those shared stories are met with dismissal or a “my way is the only way” mentality, it can be crushing. Suddenly, the feeling of camaraderie and the power of sharing ideas is replaced with hurt, anger, and frustration.

I’m not suggesting we all have to agree. That is it’s own version of destructive behavior. I am, however, suggesting that there’s a way to engage in healthy, respectful conversation that doesn’t include discrediting diversity in thoughts and experiences.

If we only limited the things we accepted as true to the things we’ve seen or experienced firsthand, how can we ever hope to grow and learn? As this thought weighed on me, I asked myself, what can we do to change that narrative? And I found myself pondering a series of what-if questions:

What if we approach each day and each situation with a spirit of empathy? Even if that means compromising our own status, comfort level, or preconceived notions?

What if we stop seeing issues and start seeing people?

What if we find ways to understand those who come from different walks of life without feeling like we’re compromising ourselves?

What if we invite someone to lunch to talk about similar views and interests? What if we invite someone to breakfast to discuss the things that make us different?

Call me an optimist or say I’m simply crazy, but when you boil it down to a few simple things, it sounds a lot like the lessons we try to instill in our kids every day: Be kind. Be understanding. Be accepting.

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