We all have varying opinions from one another, and right now those differences are feeling amplified way beyond what connects us. There’s a tendency to unfriend others who don’t lean to our way of thinking, who don’t speak out enough, or who speak out to often. It’s a no win situation for all of us.
Here’s the thing.
Your story, your perspective, and mine are vital to the overall narrative and maturity of our culture.
So how do we begin to give space to one another? Where do we go from here?
Start by listening more than speaking
This is especially important if you hold the majority view in your circle. If someone comes to you with a different vantage point listen respectively and ask for the underlying beliefs for their vantage point. If you don’t give them the respect of hearing their opinion, why should they offer you the same?
Adopt the mindset listening to one another begins with me.
Control your emotions
Respecting the opinions is a commitment to control one’s own emotions. Anger, irritation, and self-righteousness rise to the surface when confronted with opinions that place you in a non-favorable position. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth behind what is being said.
The only way to grow as a person is to stay calm, listen with an open mind, and if necessary take a time out until you can regain your composure.
Nothing will ever change if we each come at each other emotionally charged and determined that our way of thinking is the only truth.
If you don’t understand what the other is saying or how they arrived at their opinion, then ask questions.
Regardless of how different our opinion on any one subject is there is something that connects us. Hearing the whole story and being curious about the person in front of you communicates respect and a desire to find that common ground.
At the end of the day we are all made in the image of God. That alone is worthy of our respect. The man or woman in front of you is loved and cherished by their Creator.
Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment in Scripture was. He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV.)”
Later, the night before his death, Jesus provided a brand-new commandment. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).”
We are commanded to love one another. It is a vital part of what it means to be a Christian. Part of loving one another is to be fully present and to offer compassion to another’s pain.
Jesus didn’t come and shout at his disciples. He gave this new command directly after washing their feet, knowing full well these same men would deny him the next day. He loved them unconditionally, even though they kept missing what he was trying to tell them. He still listened to them, validated them, respected them, and loved them.
Right now, our world is hurting. Are you listening? I mean really listening.
What can you do today that communicates respect and value to someone who believes differently then you? Set an intention and follow through. Step out of your comfort zone and show the love of Christ by simply listening.