It’s all over the news today about the condemning Tweets and comments Ellen DeGeneres has received about her friendship with former President Bush. They shared a stadium box. They shared a laugh. Oh my! How could they?! It made me think about how deep the divide runs in our country right now with people picking sides on everything. We have turned everything into a political issue. The lines are heavily blurred.
It also made me think about the many friendships I have that would be in jeopardy if I let our differences be a problem. I refuse to let that happen. I work at it. I pick and choose who I talk to and about what. It hasn’t always had great results, but maybe that was a necessary thing to have happen. It might have meant the relationship I thought we had, wasn’t the respected, cherished friendship I thought existed.
I always pride myself on being my own person. I am human and make mistakes. While many would think that I was a Miss Goody Two Shoes who never did anything wrong and always stayed to the straight and narrow, it’s not really true. Without going into detail, many would be surprised at some of the decisions I’ve made and some of the things I’ve stood up for in indignation. I have made choices I regretted. I might not have been right 100% of the time, but I believed in what I said and did at the time. I own my mistakes. I respect people who can state their convictions and stand behind them. I have no desire to spread my opinions, or others’ opinions, all over social media, but I would have a personal conversation with anyone about anything. I believe in truths, even if your truth is different than mine. There have also been situations where my opinion has been swayed because of the way it was presented and the intelligence behind the words. That never happened on social media, only during intimate conversations.
Getting back to my friends. I like people for who they are and how they treat me. I am blessed with some really great friends. While we are all made up of our idiosyncrasies, faults, quirks, and dysfunctionality, we are also made up of good points and good qualities. With all of that going on, there should always be something we can relate to, if we are willing to find it. While some people are simply toxic and we need to avoid them, most of us experience healthy, supportive relationships with those we know. We don’t idolize friends thinking they are perfect, because we know none of us are, and we are not blind to the faults or the things that are appealing. With enough effort, a friendship can be maintained regardless of the differences. Even in marriage, we are not identical to our spouses and once the bloom is off of the rose, we will become aware of those differences. We choose to accept or ignore those differences to make marriage work. We can say she does this or he does that, but we realize that those differences don’t make up the whole person and there was a reason we were drawn to each other in the first place. Many couples eventually begin to think alike on more and more things with the passage of time. I choose to accept those differences with my friends in the same way. I am not going to force my opinion or thoughts down their throats any more than I want them to do that to me, but we can discuss things. It might even get heated or passionate, but it’s ok. When you genuinely care about something, it can happen. We should be able to look at each other and say, “We can agree to disagree,” and move on.
If anyone agreed with every single thing I said or did, I’d question their sanity, or even mine. I’d also question the truthfulness of our friendship. I enjoy a good, hearty discussion and find merit in a differing opinion. At no time would I end a friendship just over a disagreement. Each of us is entitled to our own thoughts and opinions. How we view something is often based on past experiences or exposure to certain religious, cultural, or societal ideals. As diversified as we are as a peoples, it’s a given that we will not see everything the same. We can choose to amplify that and make it a problem, or embrace the differences. We seem to have lost the ability to do that as a society. On an old episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, a long war was in progress between two religious factions. When asked what started it, the reply was, “They believed Creation took nine days and we believed Creation took ten days.” One very small, basically insignificant difference. The outcome of the episode was that all of that species, not on the Enterprise, and their planet, had been eradicated. This is what we have come to. We are a society that takes those differences, no matter how small, uses them as an excuse to find fault, declare war, or cause a painful divide, with a horrid ending. We have always had our differences. What’s changed now? Where are we headed?
Is it too late? Never. Each of us holds the power to change the direction and flow we are going in. Our personal relationships need to be tended to like a garden. Plant healthy seeds. This will feed it. This will not. What we reap, we sow. If we want something out of a relationship, we must put the same into it. Respecting someone for speaking their mind is just as important as the opinion itself.
We are told not to discuss religion or politics, and yet, here we are with these two things causing major problems for us all. It’s not that we shouldn’t or can’t talk about them, it’s the approach. It’s what we say and how we say it. What we need to do is pay attention to how our small children treat one another. I see my grandchildren in their preschool classes completely oblivious to the differences among them. They only want to get along and have a best friend, regardless what color their skin is, what religion they are, or who their parents are. They don’t care how the others dress. It doesn’t matter if their baby dolls are dark skinned, light skinned, or have purple hair. Kids don’t create walls. Most have the ability to see beyond to what really matters. Thankfully, they can’t see what their parents see. They aren’t limited in that way. They aren’t afraid of each other. Maybe we need to realize we were all that way when we were young and work on being like that again. That’s where the Truth lies.