At twenty I thought I knew everything. My convictions were rock solid. I knew what was true and what wasn't and I would argue until the heat death of the universe with anyone who disagreed.
I remember one friend in particular who mentioned they didn't believe in evolution. My nostrils flared. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. "What on Earth? How can you not believe in evolution?" Clearly they were wrong and it was my mandate from the universe to bring them to the side of truth and science.
We never talked again after that night.
And it wasn't the last time I made that mistake.
After college there were other times like that, but they grew fewer and further apart. My convictions were just as strong, and often my views hadn't changed, but I was also working on not hurting people. Moving from intentionally doing no harm to intentionally doing good. There is a difference.
I'm over thirty now (I'm pretty sure there's a blog post about it)... and one of the things I happiest about is that I've been able to mature to the point where I can still hold on to my deeply held beliefs while also holding my tongue.
So an art major doesn't believe in evolution? So what. That's their choice.
So someone is an atheist? So what. That's their choice.
So my friend is bisexual and polyamorus while I'm hardcore demisexual* and monogamous? So what? My friend is not asking me to hop in bed with them, they're asking me to Facebook stalk someone who asked them out, and like a good friend I will. I will also threaten my friend's significant other(s) and tell them that if my friend cries I will make them pay (although I'll probably just trash talk them with a friend). And if my friend doesn't find true love this go-around I will be there with ice cream, action movies, and an ear to chew off. Because we're friends.
One of the hardest lessons in life - and one so very few people learn - is that you can respect someone without agreeing with them.
We have wars over the inability to accept that some people disagree with us. There are politicians in my country who want to ban people and label them because of their religious beliefs; or more accurately because the politicians don't agree with those religious beliefs. There are people who will let their convictions and beliefs or a few things override the most important belief: THAT ALL PEOPLE SHOULD BE TREATED WITH DIGNITY AND LOVE.
Everyone, no matter what their label, deserves love.
If changing the pronoun you use for a friend makes them feel safe, loved, and accepted - if it eases their burdens and depression - why wouldn't you change? You don't need to understand the why. All you need to know is how you can help them.
If accepting someone's religious beliefs means you can live side by side in peace, and let your children be friends, why wouldn't you let them practice their beliefs?
If someone has a different skin color, accent, or outlook in life... why can't you look to see the similarities? Why can't you look for the good? The only reason is because you wouldn't want to. And where does that leave you? Bitter. Alone. Friendless.
You don't need to make mistakes and bad choices to learn. I'm hoping some of you can learn from my mistakes and avoid them. Don't let a conflict of ideology or belief destroy a friendship. Don't ever let yourself become someone who hurts people... not in the name of God, not in the name of Science, not in the name of Patriotism.
*Demisexual and bisexual are probably not on the same plane or XYZ axis in the mathematics of gender and sexuality identity, but I'm demi leaning to ace and there's only one person I've ever found sexually attractive and I'm married to him. TMI?
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