With all this talk of living with like-minded people in a red state, what do we do when we encounter those who seem to be diametrically opposed to everything we stand for? What if those people are family members or old childhood friends? How do we maintain a healthy relationship with them, yet hold fast to our own convictions? These are difficult waters to navigate, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned on my journey so far.
What to do in relationships with those on the other “side” of politics:
- Share in their joys. It’s so important in all relationships, but especially in these ones that you find ways to celebrate one another’s successes. Don’t just fake it, but really think about your love for that person as you congratulate them, whether it’s for a graduation, new job, a new baby, or even just their birthday.
- Help them in times of need. Consider it a joy when an opportunity arises that you can serve them. Share in their burdens and show them the love of Christ.
- Find things in common! Once you discover even one small thing in common, spend lots of time on that subject. Even better if it can be turned into quality time together – such as a shared favorite food, game, hobby, amusement park, or just watch a classic movie together. It’s totally okay to keep things light and fun! Remember that a surface-level relationship is better than none at all, and who knows what the future may bring.
- Only talk about politics if you are ready and willing to listen. Don’t start right out of the gate with some brass accusation, but instead ask questions. Remember that they must have had different experiences and influences than you in order to reach such different conclusions. Try to uncover what some of those experiences were to better understand where they are coming from. But don’t demand that they talk about it either – be okay with letting things lie.
What Not to Do:
- Don’t walk on eggshells around them so much that you never express your beliefs around them. Living in constant fear of hurting their feelings is only going to leave you exhausted and put a big wall between you.
- Don’t let them belittle you or control you. If they are asking you to act differently when you’re around them, humbly consider if it’s a reasonable request – or a manipulative demand.
- Don’t lie about your beliefs in order to agree with them. Even just a nod-along or omission can eat away at you later when you realize that you acted against your conscience.
- Don’t assume you know all of their beliefs or why they believe them.
- Don’t be a jerk. Treat them the way you want to be treated, with dignity and respect. Obviously, no name-calling or blatant insults.
What will happen next?
I will tell you from personal experience that the outcome is going to totally depend on the other person. I have family who won’t speak to me because of who I voted for, and I have family who is a total joy to spend time with (and even vacation with) despite all our differences! I also have people who have unfriended me on Facebook, and those who have stuck it out and have been willing to have really good debates with me online.
We can’t assume all left-leaning folks think and act the same way just like we can’t assume that about any other individual member of a group. There’s a lot of stereotyping being thrown around, especially when it comes to conservatives vs liberals. So, if you are scared about sharing your political views with certain people or out in public, take heart! It might be bumpy at first, but it is all together possible to maintain friendship and be free to express yourself! If you already have those kinds of relationships, praise God for them and be thankful.
Sadly though, there is a cultish trend of cutting off “toxic” people (anyone who doesn’t agree with them politically) among the radicals that has left many loving and undeserved family members in a state of rejection trying to make sense of it all. If this happens to you and all you did was stay true to your convictions, you’ll likely have to just let them go. As your thoughts drift towards them, pray that God softens their heart and remember that no one is out of His reach. Avoid bitterness and resentment, and instead focus your energy on the relationships that you still have and making them stronger.
When it comes to talking politics, there’s a difference between a healthy debate and a pointless argument. Personally, I love a good debate because it helps me gain understanding of other ideas and helps me to better articulate and define my own ideas. We should never be afraid to exchange ideas with our fellow citizens. Where we get into trouble is when we start thinking anyone who doesn’t agree with us is a total idiot and talk down to them.
I believe a lot of outside influences such as social media and political campaigns have got us worked up into a frenzy over our political “enemies.” Rather than being seen as simply a different position, every little opposition is blown up into a “threat to democracy!” We’re being pit against each other and it’s no wonder that maintaining relationships is hard stuff.
On the other hand, there are issues today that are being brought up that are absolutely important and will have a major impact on future generations. Things like abortion laws, transgenderism in sports, sex ed in schools, voting security, church’s freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and others. I believe Republican politicians in general have been way too soft and let policies sneak in that never should have taken hold. But let’s not forget the two recent major wins in the U.S. Supreme Court rulings: one, the overturning of Roe v Wade and two, the return of prayer being allowed in schools. Let’s keep that momentum going by boldly standing up for what we believe in a way that loves our neighbor and honors God!