By: Noreen Kompanik
President Jimmy Carter once said, “The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices.”
Today, more than ever, political differences and beliefs are so intense they threaten the core of our relationships. We’ve all experienced the pain of political polarization, deep-set beliefs, hurtful words, and even fear and prejudice. Does it have to be this way? Must we ruin relationships because we see things so differently?
Each of us must decide how we handle uncomfortable situations when they arise. We can’t control another’s actions, but we’re certainly in charge of how we respond.
“It’s not the content, it’s the delivery,” my grandfather used to say. He was a man of few words, but when he passed along his sage advice, I always listened. These powerful words have meaning.
Especially in today’s politically divisive world.
Troubling point-of view-disagreements can be quite stressful, but handling them in a constructive manner can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. Here are some strategies to help prevent opposing political beliefs from destroying your relationships.
We’ve been close friends with three other couples for more than 40 years. We’ve taken group vacations together and truly enjoy one another’s company. Two couples are quite conservative, and two lean liberal. We all understand life’s experiences influence our political persuasions — be it fiscal, social, cultural, racial, or religious.
People believe the way they do for a reason. Even diametrically opposite political views have a valid basis for existing. Understanding this and, if necessary, avoiding hot button topics, are the keys to preserving relationships.
We’ve all heard the comment, “I can’t have a relationship with someone who has a fundamentally different point of view.” To me, that’s just plain sad. Even if you disagree with someone’s political beliefs, it’s important to express your opinion in a respectful, civil manner.
We need to reach the point where we accept a different perspective. Seek to understand and not add emotional fuel with your counterpoint. It’s the only way to heal the divisive illness affecting our nation.
We all know people (many of them family) who can’t stay away from a political battle. They feel compelled to strongly voice their opinion and believe they are always right.
In this situation, I’ve found establishing firm boundaries maintains sanity. We enjoy entertaining at our home and love our friends and family. But it’s our home and our rules. We’ve made it clear we’d prefer politics to not come up during get-togethers or parties. It’s worked well for us, and eliminated the need to intervene in what could be an uncomfortable situation.
Nature is a reminder to all of us we’re not in this alone — that the world has had its fair share of good and bad. We’ve survived world wars, domestic terrorism, assassinations, and recently the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather than focusing on the ugly politics, it’s far healthier to remember, embrace, and share the goodness in mankind. The heroes, the philanthropists, the caregivers, and unselfish volunteers.
Nature also reminds us we live in a beautiful world. Spring brings new growth. Summer means picnics, sunshine, and beach days. Autumn provides breathtaking vibrant colors. And those beautiful winter days, when snow blankets the ground, allow for personal reflection.
It won’t be easy fixing the divisiveness surrounding us. Nothing really worth fixing can be done overnight.
Change happens one step at a time — and one person at a time. Don’t let politics ruin your cherished relationships.