04 December 2012
Acceptance should not negate conviction. The good news is that it doesn't have to. If you struggle to wrap your mind and heart around that, you may do well to soften your heart, open your ears, and relax your neck.
Don't get me wrong: I _will_ challenge and push back and ask questions and retain skepticism. Crucial conversations must take place regarding the consequences of our actions on each other and on people we care about in our political, social, and personal lives. Understanding and solutions come from such conversations, through the conflict, not by avoiding it. Conflict is bound to arise from people of varying convictions pursuing what they believe is right and good. And some people in pursuit of power, self aggrandizement, or justification will destroy peace around us if we are too busy holding hands to stand against them and do anything about it. Not all views of either spirituality or secularism include a love of peace or prioritize harmony, reconciliation, and self-determination. But I think humanity generally craves them enough that they can and will be fostered and magnified by example.
If I love you, I am going to care about your happiness and will be concerned when I see you choosing what seem like destructive beliefs and decisions. I think we should be honest with each other. But there are respectful, mutually beneficial ways to approaching those concerns, and there are tyrannical, stiffnecked, or defensive ways to approach them. We know where we fundamentally disagree, and we're not likely to change each other's mind, especially not by reminding each other of disapproval at every opportunity without being ever willing to hear each other out. And if I turn out to have been slightly short of full understanding of truth, or just plain wrong about someone's decisions, will I have destroyed good friendships to defend my own flawed understanding? If I'm certain I'm right, and they're certain they're right, am I proud enough to staunchly believe I am the right one? Am I arrogant enough to let that sense of righteousness alone justify behavior or treatment of others that I would consider wrong from anyone else? No, and I don't think I have to. I have my beliefs, but I don't know all things or the depths and breadth of anyone's heart and experience. I try to keep this perspective ever present when approaching and having conversations about controversial or difficult subjects I might more easily rail against or rant about than attempt to understand.
That's why I think I'd change one lyric in this song: "We can debate til the end of time who's wrong and who is right, yet I can honor your choices and you can honor mine."
I believe that debate can only get us so far. At some point, I think each of us has to accept that there's no way we can keep up with each other, or there's no way I can fully articulate every nuance of every thought and experience I have, let alone do it in a way that would be convincing to everyone or even anyone. I may have a higher tolerance for tension and debate than others. And I still do and will rant sometimes. I do still think we can and should have productive, even if conflict-born, conversation. But I will nonetheless commit and re-commit, and strive to honor your choices, even when I don't understand or agree with them (which is often, let's just be honest *wink*), and after some rigorous testing, I've found that even though in some cases we agree less than ever, I can generally expect the same of my truest friends, for which I'm grateful.