What If Our Differences Make Us Closer?
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
This is a pretty BOLD idea in the current environment we live in. But think about it, what if our differences are truly what bond us and help us grow closer? I know they do for my dogs; Pokey and Pepper. They couldn't be more opposite but over the years of being in community together I believe they've figured out how to co-exist and thrive in spite of their differences. As people, if we are able to set aside our pride consuming need for our identity to be wrapped up in a sandwich between the need to be heard and approval of being right - perhaps we could have a conversation with people we love and don't necessarily always agree with. Listening has become a lost art these days; and empathy is something going away at an alarming pace as well. As much as it hurt my hearts that we scream at each other only to be heard by those who align with our opinions; I'm not letting the weight of the possible invade my mind what can be incredible!
Meaning, I see any opportunity to truly discuss matters with someone unlike me as a really cool chance for us to get closer. I don't have to agree with whoever I'm engaged with and I hope they know there isn't pressure to think like me either. I actually think our differences are beautiful and what gives us all the opportunity to grow - either in different perspectives than our own or closer to what we align with.
Let me break it down to a simpler level in a story format from something I experienced this week, with a friend I met at a coffee shop who I hadn't connected with in about 6-8 Covid19 weeks. (Yes, Covid is now a form of time measurement). I admire and respect this person to a level I can't even express. She walks with dignity, enjoys the pleasure of being herself in all situations, and isn't afraid to toss the golf ball a few inches towards the hole when we play
together (like I said...total package in my eyes). We have the type of friendship that can have time pass unexpectedly but then when we get together its like nothing had changed. The best part of our bond is we share a similar sense of humor and set of values - so it makes time together very easy and enjoyable moments. I believe with everything I have that humor is the best bond and joins people who may not really belong together on paper but in real life are forever friends. So, our first few moments started with an awkward determination of "hugging etiquette" (typical now in the current "Living with Covid" society) and ending with a solid laugh of silliness as we embraced for a few healthy seconds. Next we moved on to the girlfriend laughs about one of us not wearing a mask and the assumed intelligence of this virus based on the policies given to us by government while the other confessed it was her first outing out since her first-hand encounter with the new 2020 pandemic guest. We were both laughing and didn't seem to mind we both felt differently about the topic.
As we drank our coffee our conversation spread over topics of economic development strategies for our city and state, current political platforms climate & disappointments, policies for return to school and return to office plans, and then of course the obligatory girlfriend love life catch up. We spent nearly 2 hours together as the time seemed to speed by and there was never a lack of something to talk about. We debated lovingly and expressed our genuine feelings and opinions on every topic. Both of us granted the other time to fully communicate their perspective without a rebuttal or interruption, but then spent time debating both sides of the conversation in a really thought provoking way. I walked away still believing what I already did when I arrived; and I'm sure she did to. But, what I didn't expect was to walk away in such deep appreciation for how different we think on many levels. Once I got home I immediately texted her to thank her for being the friend I can be myself with and still discuss important issues with someone I could gain alternative perspectives from.
As I went through the rest of the day my mind was consumed with the thought - "What if what makes us different really bonds us together?" Our friendship rose to another level that day at coffee because we weren't anything less than genuine to ourselves but we both allowed someone with a different perspective to speak and feel heard. I didn't share my thoughts because I wanted to change her mind about anything; but I did enjoy a rich dialogue about topics I'm really interested in. Its boring to always be talking to someone who agrees with you all the time. There was no pressure to be right or name calling because we stand on different sides of some policies. We love each other regardless of our views and both understand people are complicated and have so much depth their opinions on current topics don't define their whole self. I value that kind of relationship more now than ever.
I know not every conversations can be as healthy as this coffee date. There are some really hurt feelings out there and some healing needs to happen before civil discourse can be adopted society wide. However, if you take away the "nasty" interactions we've witnessed and look for moments when speaking to an opposing side with kindness and gentleness while still standing firm in the principles you believe in...I think we'll find a stronger bond can be built because trust, vulnerability, and respect are at the core of those types of conversations.
I am grateful for the differences that make us closer!