You know that family member who drives you crazy? You disagree about everything, or at least the important things. You still talk to them, of course*—they’re family—but if they weren’t family, you wouldn’t be their friend. Sound familiar?
I have a homophobic cousin. Or at least, this is how I interpret his beliefs. One Christmas, I argued with him about his belief that homosexuals go to Hell. Was I naive enough to think I’d change his mind? Probably not. I just wanted to yell at him.
You know what else? I love this guy. He’s my baby cousin. If he ever needs me, I’ll drop everything and fly my ass out to help him.
Our inner circles
Most of the time, relationships are not rainbows and unicorns. We disagree with our spouses. We misinterpret our friends’ text messages. We forget birthdays. We sit at home alone wondering why no one has telepathically picked up on our sad panda mood and called to check in. We disagree with many of these people about many things, including things that matter deeply to us. We just don’t see the world the way they do.
In our closest circle of friends and family and colleagues, we tend to choose friendship in spite of our shortcomings and our differences.
We choose to nurture the relationship anyway.
In our inner circle, we choose to nurture the relationship in spite of our differences.
Maybe we avoid certain topics, or limit our contact to Facebook comments and holiday parties. Or, like me with my cousin, we love quietly from afar.
Regardless, in this most inner circle, we choose love anyway. We choose friendship in spite of our differences. We acknowledge our sameness, our connectedness.
This is how we treat our inner circle. How do we treat the more broad circle of our community?
Our human community
How do we treat the individuals that aren’t our closest friends and family and colleagues?
You vote for different candidates. Unfollow.
You disagree about how abortion should be treated legally. I don’t waste my time on idiots! Blocked.
She speaks out about discriminatory treatment you haven’t experienced. They’re always playing the race card!
You lean towards opposite approaches for how we should handle the Mexican-U.S. border. How could he be so stupid?
If you’re nodding along, seeing this in the people around you, remember to look at where this might be true for you. Two of these examples are me.
What if instead, we chose this friendship-in-spite-of attitude with our entire human family?
What might be possible if we treat every member of our human family as friends?
What if we connected with everyone, not with an intent to change their minds, but to simply be a friend? What is so bad or scary about that? Why are we glorifying the spread of hatred, the emphasis on separateness and difference? This isn’t who we really are, and I think you know that. We are meant to love.
I watched a documentary recently, Life After Life, by Dr. Raymond Moody who has been studying near-death experiences so long that he literally coined the phrase. It tells the stories of six individuals’ near death experiences. Many of them came back with the belief that life is about kindness. It’s about the little moments of love and kindness, so subtle that we probably won’t even remember them. It’s the smile and the favor and the listening and the hearing.
Who do you disagree with? How can you be their friend today?
* I totes acknowledge that sometimes relationships are so toxic that we intentionally cut ties. I’m definitely not anti-this, I’m simply talking about a far more common relationship dynamic.
Photo by Markus Spiske.