I fiercely criticize things on this blog and I will not stop. But starting now, I vow to criticize writings and ideas, not people, and to listen to those who disagree. It starts with this statement:
People who disagree with you are still human beings, they still reason, they still care about things, and they deserve your respect.
Case in point: as is obvious by now, I am in favor of gay marriage, because I think it is right and because the gay people I care about deserve to be able to be marry each other. The Supreme Court decision made my heart soar.
But every decision or event like this leaves a group of people feeling hurt. I will not demonize the opposition, because I share a country and a world with them. I am going to listen them and learn where they are coming from.
This is not what I see on Facebook. I see people doing victory laps. I see people calling those with opposing viewpoints stupid. I see people writing off every counterargument with a sneer. This is the equivalent of a Red Sox fan shouting “Yankees suck!” You know what? They don’t suck. Their fans are actually people who feel as strongly as you. You better to learn to share the stadium, especially if the alternative is getting into a fistfight.
Here’s a great post from a church leader that sums up how I feel (and I am not at all religious). The question of how we can build on diverse opinions is crucial.
Here’s how I feel about people who disagree with me: I think they are wrong. I want to reclaim that word “wrong.” Wrong means I believe they have made the wrong choice. It does not mean they are stupid, or mean-spirited, or immoral.
The families in Charleston forgiving the shooter have inspired me.
Here are some principles I will try to live by as I wade into controversies:
- I will criticize words and content.
- I will criticize actions.
- I will not criticize (or characterize) people.
- I will make room for and amplify viewpoints other than my own, so we can have a principled discussion and learn something.
- I will search for higher truths that will inspire all of us, including those who disagree with me.
- I will do all these things, even when the people I disagree with do not.
If you are married, you may have learned as I have that you cannot “win” an argument. You may get your way, but you won’t be happy for long unless you work on the relationship at the same time as the argument. Our nation is like a marriage, only much bigger, and I do not want to get a divorce from the people who disagree with me.
Hating is worse than whatever “stupid” opinion the other guy has. Stop hating people you disagree with. Find common ground with them. Have a little compassion, because you might just lose the next one. When people lose a decision — like the gay marriage opponents just did — they’re going to say some impassioned things, some of which will be stupid. Fine. Let’s figure out why so we can all find a way to move on.
Photo: Webb Chappell, with the Facebook rainbow treatment.