Holding those with opposing views to a higher standard than we hold ourselves

I’ve been reflecting on humility and meekness as Christian virtues, and how Jesus said that “the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).”

See here’s the thing with liberals and conservatives on social media: both sides are saturated in self-righteous pride. Each side believes they have the enlightened truth (liberals are “woke”, conservatives are “wise”) and that the other side is bigoted and stupid. Liberals view themselves as gloriously open-minded and conservatives view themselves as gloriously high-minded.

Yet liberals aren’t open-minded toward any conservative views and conservatives don’t acknowledge that a liberal’s moral code is as strong as theirs. Each views the other side as morally bankrupt.

It’s all a matter of perspective though, for we’re all the same, we really are. Human nature is human nature. With the exception of pride (which seems to be distributed quite evenly on both sides), our sins are collective and unique (yet only unique in the sense of individual). All the same wrongdoings are committed across the board, no matter how disguised they may seem at first glance. We are mirror images, photos and negatives, heads and tails.

Which brings me to my next observation: the difficulty of having a close relationship with friends and family members on opposing sides of the political (and religious) spectrum. There’s a sadness here, especially when it comes to the parent-adult child relationship.

If one’s chiselling of views didn’t come about until adulthood, what tends to be experienced is that a once seemingly close relationship quickly grows distant – there is a disconnect, a divide, a wall. To the adult child this feels like conditional love (“my parent will only truly love and accept me again if I embrace all the same views they have”), and there is resentment and a feeling of disillusionment. But I would imagine that this sadness is felt by the parent as well: they too feel the wall and have the feeling that “my child will only truly love and accept me again if I embrace their views instead of mine.”

So, both parties feel like victims of conditional love.

Now, of course it’s true that it is exceedingly difficult to feel close to someone who holds opposing views, many of which may be downright offensive and deeply hurtful – but I’ve noticed a self-centeredness here when I’ve seen this issue discussed on social media:

The adult child wants the parent to “hold space” for them, to make them feel welcome and not to feel judged and rejected for their differing (sometimes polarizing) views. All fine and good. But does the adult child hold space for the parent? Do they make sure that the parent feels welcome and not judged and rejected for their differing views?

Do we hold the one with the opposing view to a higher standard than we hold ourselves?

This is certainly not to say that we shouldn’t have boundaries. If a parent, adult child, friend, or spouse is using their beliefs to be oppressive or even abusive, then boundaries are vital! But when the person is lovely in every way except with that one confounded belief, and they feel the same about you, is there a way that through humility and meekness we can each hold space for one another, practising unconditional – “agape” – love?

Perhaps some relationships are only capable of surface-level, trivial conversation; but what if many relationships could actually be close and rewarding in spite of political and theological differences? Where said differences can even be discussed without either party stacking the wall afresh…

It won’t work with everyone. Even Jesus was hated by many. But he was also a magnet to sinners, to the rejects of society. They loved being in his presence; felt loved and accepted in spite of differences.

Meekness is often confused with weakness however; being a pushover. But the two words are not synonyms. Jesus was meek. It means being kind, courteous, and humble in the face of provocation. It is a gentle strength.

We all have something to learn from each other – that’s the beauty of it. No one is getting life 100% right. My own views have greatly evolved over the years – I am a work in progress. There is still so much yet to learn. I’d like to live in peace and harmony with friends and family while still having a voice and not diminishing myself. And I believe that humility and meekness are key to achieving that.

If we want others to hold space for our beliefs, we need to do the same for them, even if we find their beliefs downright appalling. Holding space does not mean that all views are equal and that hate speech should be tolerated. It just means that we make an effort to appreciate what is beautiful in each person, even when there’s ugliness in the mix too.

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Bekah Ferguson

Bekah Ferguson

Bekah Ferguson is from Ontario, Canada. She's a short story writer, and the author of The Attic, When the Fog Cleared, & A White Rose. She's drawn to the #mysterious, #speculative, #paranormal, and #fantastical; especially folklore in #historical settings.

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