It is so easy to find someone who is obstinately opposed to your beliefs and/or political leanings. Simply go to an online news article or social media post about something you care about and read the comments. I am not recommending anyone go “doomscrolling”, but I am sure most people who frequent the internet have run into this. Even when the reason for reading comments is simply for more information on what seems to be an uncontroversial topic, one can often find comments that are contrary, and sometimes even hateful. For many it is just a matter of ignoring the perfect stranger and moving on. For others, they must forego reading comments to keep their peace of mind. Internet trolls are everywhere, and it is best to not feed them after all. But what if these comments are coming from people you know, people that you care about?
Last summer here in the US there was much heated discussion about the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. Racism was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. People were either outright denying it was (is) a problem, they were discussing what could be done to fix it, or they were avoiding the topic altogether. I typically avoided posting anything political on my social media accounts but felt compelled to speak up about social injustice. I have always stayed away from confrontation, and this felt like confronting people about their long held racist beliefs (even though I never singled anyone out) and it made me nervous. I posted a picture of a protest made up of mothers with their babies in tow- they had a sign saying, “All mothers were summoned when he called out for his mama”. Being a mother myself, this held special significance. Someone who I am remarkably close with responded on Facebook by “laughing” at the post. My heart stopped when I saw that and frankly, I felt hurt. I sent them a private message and asked why the laughing emoji response. I was hoping it was a mistake and they meant to “love” the post instead. Unfortunately, they responded that it was funny because it was all a big joke. I replied that I was sorry they felt that way. A few days later I felt compelled to make a very personal statement on my Facebook about my views on racial injustice and even gave the not-so-subtle hint that anyone could “unfriend” me if they felt inclined to belittle my beliefs on the subject. It was indirectly aimed at this person that had “laughed” at me, but I hid the post from them seeing it. Or so I thought. I did something wrong, and that post was viewed by everyone including the one I tried to hide it from. They responded by unfriending me. If it were anyone else, I would have let it go, but I sent another message and asked why. They said they were just kidding. But we never became friends again on Facebook. I saw this person about a month later. I felt awkward about it at first, but I was able to let it go. We never talked about it again and we are still very close.
Last summer I noticed a strong trend where people were cutting all ties with friends and family that they deemed to be racist, too liberal, too conservative, or just generally not on the same “side” of this false dichotomy that has been shoved down everyone’s throats. It was as if one did not truly care about their causes if they did not reject everyone opposed to them. Shaming, belittling, and cancelling anyone and anything that stood directly against one’s “side” was (and still is) all too common. But is it productive? I am a big fan of Brene Brown, especially her research she done on shame. Shaming people is not productive. It might get a lot of likes and views on social media, but it leads to nowhere. Shaming a friend or family member for their beliefs, either online or in person, is deeply damaging.
Empathy and compassion are key. I have my assumptions as to why the person I mentioned before reacted the way they did. I may be correct in those assumptions; I am not 100% sure. What I do know is that it is not my job to fix them. I can only lead by example. I can still hold onto my beliefs knowing this person I care about does not support them. And somehow, we can still get along. I do not bring up these topics in conversation because we both know where we stand. However, if they were to come to me with sincere interest in my beliefs, I would share them. It probably will not happen, but I will be ready regardless.
My husband and I don’t share all the same political beliefs. We are both pretty moderate for the most part, but we do oppose each other on a few issues. He likes to joke how I am the “liberal” one. And I know we both would be disappointed in the other if one of us were to change our views to fit in with any particular group. We have been married for 25 years, being on the same sides politically is not a requirement for a good marriage.
At the end of the day no one believes they are on the wrong side. Whether they are justified, or misled, it doesn’t matter. And truly no one, I mean no one, has it all figured out. There is no perfect Utopia. We will always have conflict and we will never make everyone happy. Personally, I appreciate a good devil’s advocate. We cannot take everything at face value. Acknowledging that we are not always right is a big step in maintaining relationships with those who don’t share all the same beliefs. This may not always work of course. Some people are not able to respect boundaries and differences. And sometimes the best answer is to walk away until they can. Who knows, they might surprise you and come back around.
Hi! I’m an American girl from everywhere and nowhere, currently living in Tennessee. Navy wife and Navy mom, I have two beautiful children that are “adults” but I still call them my babies. I’m also mom to 4 dogs, 3 cats, 7 goats, 2 turkeys and 70 chickens (I think, they keep multiplying and I’ve lost count). When I’m not tending to my animals I’m running, reading, lifting weights, cooking or crafting. Some weeks I do them all and some weeks I only manage to binge watch a new show on Netflix. They call that balance right? I was a practicing massage therapist until the Covid pandemic halted my business. Now I’m considering new career options as I feel this was a sign to reevaluate my goals. When I run I have discussions in my head that I always think I should write down. Here’s my chance to do just that. I hope you enjoy. IG: @love.run.lift