You are not your Opinion

A sales job or so ago, I had the wonderful chance to speak with a pastor, something that I don’t really ever have a chance to do in my normal life. He’s a friend, in a way, who I’ve sold to in multiple roles and our conversations, infrequent that they are, tend to go a little deep.
A little background on myself before we continue: I grew up in a religious household, went to church once in a while, but came from parents that believed in finding God in his works more than in the biased views of man. I don’t know that they’ve ever thought of it that way, but that’s how I interpreted their teaching. I’m not overtly religious, but I’m also not an athiest. I’m a person seeking to understand the human condition. This leads me down a path of belief with an open mind. During a conversation with my dad, I told him that it didn’t matter if my God was the God of Christianity or whatever, because at the end of the day, my God is the God of love. If your God is asking you to condemn, judge, or persecute someone than he isn’t mine.
That being said, I’m also a former archaeologist and anthropologist, so I believe in science, evolution. and evidence. A lot of my understandings tend to temper my beliefs. I’ve read history, and how religion has been used to bend the wills of people, start wars, and destroyed entire civilizations. I’m a realist that believes there’s something out there that wants me to be a decent human being but won’t go out of his way to make me one. That’s on me.
So, I don’t go to church, but I do pray once in a while. I don’t talk about religion unless asked. My religion is trying to live up to that being who wants me to be decent and better. That’s about it.
When I met with my pastor friend, we spoke about a few things. Of course, I was trying to convince him to buy something from me in my new role, but I also just wanted to catch up with him. We spoke about a few things, but of course, I couldn’t help but want to bring up politics to see where his opinion landed. I expected him to be on the far opposite side from myself, but what he said to me was a well thought out surprise.
He said that he wished people could have civil discourse again, like we supposedly once did. (I only say supposedly because, with all of my hopes of being a decent person, I can’t help but be a little cynical as well.) He then made a statement that shocked me only because it seemed to reveal an obvious truth of the world that I hadn’t noticed before.
“At some point in the last 20 years, we started associating our opinions with our sense of self. When a person does that, you can’t disagree with their opinion without disagreeing with who they are as a person, even if that’s not the case. That’s when all civil discussion goes out the window.”
That hit me hard because of how right it seemed. Just look at any social media posting that breaks down into an argument. People take the defense of their opinions so personally now. Opinions are meant to be discussed, learned from, changed, and then ignored when you know that you can’t be moved to agree with it. Instead, people fight until they’d rather cut off the person they were just having a conversation with. No longer can we say, “I respect your right to that opinion, but I’ll have to disagree.” Now it degrades to us calling each other names and taking a personal offense when you don’t agree with me.
How many times have you seen this, especially on the internet? How many arguments have you been a part of that could have ended with a simple nod at it just being an opinion, but instead it continued because people would rather validate their existence through your acceptance than admit that everyone has different views on such things?
Perhaps that’s the answer to everything wrong with the world. Maybe we just need to remember that we are all different, with different views and different experiences, and that it’s ok to accept that people have different opinions. We aren’t our opinions, and who knows, maybe their next opinion will be one you agree with.
As we go into 2020, coming out of a year of political strife and personal anxieties, try to remember that the person next to you with different politics and different religious views, is seeing the world differently. It’s not your job to change them. It’s ok to just accept them as different.

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