I have a diverse group of friends (and family). To a degree this is inevitable, but it is also intentional. I want a diverse group of people to share life with. They all think I’m delusional.
I can think of two ways to have a diverse crew of friends. First, tacitly agree to never talk about areas of disagreement or difference. Just talk about what we have in common, whether it’s sports, politics, religion, a hobby, or some other area of mutual interest.
The alternative way to have a diverse cadre of companions is to be open and accepting of differences. You like the Dodgers; I like Chris Sharma. You like Putin; I like Nader. You served in the Marines; I’m a pacifist. And that’s okay. I like you. Let’s talk.
Of course one doesn’t need to “like” the other person to have a meaningful conversation, but I’m talking about friends and family–people I generally like and wish to keep traveling with.
I suppose there is a possible third way to have diverse friends–having no opinion of one’s own, so “the other” is never at odds with your own views. But this seems impossible, so I think there are probably just the two ways I’ve mentioned above.
So yes, all my diverse friends think I’m delusional in one way or another. Christian friends think I’m delusional for “remembering the Sabbath” on Saturday instead of the commonly accepted Sunday. Muslim friends think I’m delusional for believing Jesus is not just a prophet but actually God. Atheist friends think I’m delusional for thinking there is a God at all. Anarchist friends think I’m delusional for voting. Republican friends think I’m delusional for leaving the party. Democrat friends think I’m delusion for becoming an independent instead of a Democrat.
If you and I talk long enough — a prerequisite for becoming friends — we’re going to find areas where we hold vastly different values, beliefs, and priorities. It’s inevitable, as I mentioned in my introductory paragraph. Since birds of a feather flock together (and social psychologists tell us this is more true than opposites attract, with certain conditions), we tend to find people who are similar to us in important ways. We try to minimize differences even though differences can never be totally done away with. We each are so unique that differences are truly inevitable.
Thankfully, difference doesn’t need to be a friendship deal-breaker. However, rudeness is. We can talk respectfully about our differences, but once pride, arrogance, disgust, disdain, and rudeness rear their ugly heads, the conversation is doomed for a dead end. I try to keep listening even once these communication demons manifest, but it’s hard. Rather than listen, my general approach is to walk away. Unless it’s a conversation on Facebook, and then all social mores and norms are gone. Bring on the argument. 😉
Given the social reality of “birds of a feather,” it takes intentional effort to initiate and cultivate meaningful relationships with those who are different from us in the areas we value most. I’m not great at this. I’m no expert. But it’s something I care about, so I put some energy into it.
But I admit it, I also really like relaxing with people who know me and understand why I do what I do. I don’t have to explain myself. For the most part. You know what I mean. And you know who this is for you. May we value people who are like us in important ways as well as people who are different in those very same ways.