At least once a day, I check in on a few social media sites to connect with my friends. I comment, I “like,” I get creative with emojis – but mostly, I try to keep up in a small way by interacting with their busy lives.
Unfortunately, what was once a source of joy now feels (post-election) like a sideline seat at an MMA fight. I watch friends tear into other friends for sharing differing beliefs. I see people make ultimatums and get bullied for their stance. It seems everyone has fighting words and vitriol just waiting to spew.
The last few weeks and months have been a hot bed of emotion simmering on social media and erupting after the election. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, many of us have been negatively impacted by friends behaving badly or treating us with animosity. So how can we go forward now that our differing beliefs have been exposed?
Embrace Different Views
About a month ago, my husband, a pastor in Southern California, attended a race and religion conference to help him understand some of the tension surrounding the election. He sat in a forum with a panel of respected leaders representing different churches across the country. During the talk, one of the speakers asked the crowd to raise their hand at how many times they had been pulled over by a policeman while driving.
The results were shocking. My husband and most of the Caucasian ministers in the group had been pulled over five times or less in their life. The rest of the group – black, Middle Eastern, Asian, Mexican – had all been pulled over 20 times or more. It was a powerful reminder to my husband that his experience with law enforcement was different than the others’ experience. Now, this wasn’t a condemnation of the police by any means, but simply an exercise to help someone with a different paradigm acknowledge the lens they see through isn’t the same lens as others – something we often forget when making blanket statements.
Seek To Understand
In a meeting later that week, one of the pastors who attended the forum with my husband shared his revelation from the conference with the staff. And something tangible exploded in the room; people began to cry. Why? Because they felt understood and valued for the first time in their very real struggle with racial tension, and that is a powerful thing.
When we take the time to listen to our friends’ concerns and hear their hearts without devaluing them, we see things differently. Instead of arguing, we need to ask questions and probe deep to find out what’s behind their beliefs. When we lean in and engage with our friends and ask what’s behind their anger, we might be surprised at their answers.
Often, fear can make the nicest friend go a little batty and behave in a way we are unaccustomed to. Hurt and defensive people will attack for self-protection, leaving innocent bystanders in their wake scratching their heads in befuddlement, thinking, “Who body-snatched my friend?”
Find Common Ground
Instead of blocking your friends on social media out of frustration, consider getting together with them in person and having a real conversation. Find out where they are coming from, what’s causing them so much vexation, and hear them out.
Some people feel so deeply misunderstood that they just keep shouting louder, hoping someone will hear them. Be the friend to listen and reserve your judgement, or better yet, let it go. Maybe they have a perspective you could learn from.
This isn’t the time to debate them, but if you have experiences that have shaped you differently, share how these things affect you and mold what you believe. If harmony eludes you, focus on the parts of your friendship where you share interests and passions outside of the conflicting beliefs. Do your best to let them know how much you care about them even though you disagree.
Respect Yourself And Your Friend
I sat in a van yesterday with a woman who spewed out a bunch of hate regarding the election. She declared that half of the country (the half who voted differently than her) were idiots.
I didn’t even know this woman, but her all-encompassing words were terribly offensive because they diminished real people. Each one of us has intrinsic value and our voice matters. Don’t disregard someone because they disagree with you, and more importantly, don’t write off your friends because they are poles apart from your perspective. Respect yourself and respect your friend by regarding your friendship as more important than your political dogmas or philosophies.
True friends are worth fighting for, and election rhetoric is no reason to discard a relationship. Make the effort to be the one who brings peace and understanding to your relationship.
You may also be interested in How To Make Up With A Friend After A Fight