If you had told me twenty years ago that one of my favorite people now would be a Liberal (gasp!), I would have laughed. I would have told you that you must be mistaken.
Lesa in 2000 was immersed in partisanship, convinced that her way of thinking was the only valid way and that anyone who thought differently was an enemy. This was not the result of parenting, or church, or school, but rather a result of my political experience through campaigns, internships, the media, and friendships.
It was never a message that was blatantly proclaimed, but rather a subtle invasion of my subconscious that grew stronger with every political experience. It felt good to be part of a team, to be with likeminded people. It was satisfying to be fighting together to make the world a better place, even if we had tunnel vision and refused to listen to “their” ideas. It felt good to have something in common, even if it was a fake enemy. We looked for the weaknesses in their arguments and focused solely on that. If we found their weakness, we could prove them wrong and we could win.
It was always about the fight.
When I began to lobby our Newborn Screening legislation here in Pennsylvania, I was forced to consider my biases frequently because the representative who introduced the first two bills was a Democrat. Rather than focusing on all the things we didn’t have in common, I chose to focus on the one thing we did: passion for Newborn Screening.
And then, I became the “victim” of such bias when I was told my bill would not go to the floor of the House because “the wrong party” introduced it. I was forced to go to the Senate, to the majority party, to have another bill introduced to circumvent the roadblocks. My legislation was not worthy of consideration because the minority party introduced it. Mind blowing. Newborn Screening affects EVERYONE and yet I’m still waiting for progress.
Two of my greatest allies in the legislature over the past four years do not agree with me politically. But, we agree on one important thing: Newborn Screening, specifically for Krabbe. These two women (Rachel and Ashley) have been with me nearly every step of the way and it doesn’t matter that we disagree on many issues. It just doesn’t matter. They are worth my respect, kindness, and appreciation. We are a team.
All of this is why I am overall disillusioned by – and uninterested in serving in – politics today. If we can’t overlook party lines and consider a bill on its merit, what’s the point?
Last night we watched a compelling and powerful sermon by Pastor Miles McPherson (thanks to our church, LCBC, for choosing to share such an important message instead of what was planned), and I was reminded about some incredible changes the Lord has made in my heart and in my life regarding people who are different from me. As you’ve gathered by now, I don’t write this in regards to skin color, but rather political affiliation. The lesson is the same, though, for any differences that we observe in others.
Miles McPherson said that we all have far more in common than we’d think, and I’ve found that to be very true, but also challenging to put into practice.
Traveling to several different countries to serve has helped me tremendously in this way, as has church planting. Being around people who are different from us makes us better people.
I remember my first moms group meeting two years ago. There was this woman at my assigned table with dreadlocks and views that opposed my own. I had started going to two mom’s groups in an effort to make local mom friends and I clearly remember thinking that she was not going to be the friend I was seeking.
The next meeting we were talking and I discovered that we had something in common (I believe it was cloth diapering). That one thing turned into so many more and she quickly became the person I most looked forward to seeing. She is a treasure and I hope that our friendship can continue to grow.
Had I closed my heart and mind to her because of our differences, we wouldn’t be friends today. I no longer focus on the issues that divide us. I try to always focus on what unites us. We are both followers of Jesus, mothers who want the best for our children, and we’re actually even cousins through marriage (that was a crazy realization). She is doing incredible things that are biblical and right, and I’m proud that she’s my friend.
I am not perfect at this by any means. I still catch myself hearing the word Liberal and wanting to run away. I make assumptions based on past experiences and on what I was taught by many in politics to believe.
But, guess what? Just because you see things differently doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or work toward a common goal. Just because someone has had different experiences that have shaped their worldview doesn’t mean their view is invalid.
I grew up in a rural county with more cows than people, a county where just about everyone views life the same way. When I moved away and encountered different denominations, different political views, different ways of doing life, it was a serious challenge because I thought my way was the only way. When I spent several weeks out of the country at various times, I was challenged to accept that things can be done differently.
Different doesn’t mean bad.
I write all of this to hopefully encourage you to consider other viewpoints. Listen to people who are different from you. Truly listen. Don’t listen to argue, but to learn.
Humble yourself and be willing to consider someone else’s journey and story. Recognize that you may not be right about everything. Learn about why they have the view they do.
Get out of your comfort zone and learn about other ways to think and live. You might be surprised at how amazing that experience can be.