Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Why Are You Still Friends With THAT Guy?
There are benefits to having friends who have completely different points of view. And I've always enjoyed having deep discussions with people like that. When I was a fundamentalist, conservative, shy Christian my best friend was a loud mouthed Reform Jew. We could have been any more opposite. He challenged my faith which actually deepened it and strengthened it when I was forced to constantly defend it. His gregarious public behavior brought me out of my shell. He taught me about running my own business when no one in my family knew how or believed it was even a good idea. I learned a lot from him. My Facebook friends who challenge every post I make keep me honest. I can't go when too far bashing conservatives or praising liberals. I pause when I hit the button to post something to my Facebook wall because I know I can't easily get away with just mindlessly parroting the Huffington Post or MSNBC. I've learned a ton about issues like healthcare, tax reform, deficit spending, etc. because I've been pushed to be up to speed on those subjects by people who think 180º opposed to my way of thinking.
It's easy to be friends with people who think just like you do and most of us gravitate to those people. If we're conservative, we attend a conservative church. Hardly anyone knows people who make a lot more money or a lot less money than they do because our neighborhoods and even our lives are segregated by income. I think income segregation is more prevalent than even race segregation in America. Do you hang out with anyone who makes tens of thousands of dollars more or less than you do? It's nearly impossible to understand what that is like unless you at least know someone in that position. At work, we tend to have the same political beliefs as the people we work with. If we don't, we fake it. By having a diverse group of friends on Facebook- races, nationalities, income levels, political persuasions, religions I have considerably broadened my view of the world.
None of this answers though why be friend with those "jerks". I have some friends whose behavior no one would tolerate in his living room, including me. I could find respectful, kind people who offer their differing views with respect. If some of the people on my wall acted that way in my house, I'd kick them out. I keep those friends around for a couple of reasons. 1.) I believe we are all "one tribe" and I try to practice looking at each person as an image of God. I know that, at our core, we are all the same. We all want the same things. We want to be loved. We want to be understood. We want to be accepted for who we are. Part of my semi-Buddhist practice is trying to practice unconditional love. To do that, you can't just love people you like. You have to be able to see the Buddha nature of every person. You start metta practice with yourself and move outward to people who benefit you and who love you, eventually moving out to "enemies". These guys are my advanced metta practice partners. 2.) I remain friends with these people because, if we try hard enough, we can find common ground on just about every issue. And, if can't find common ground on one issue, we can find common ground on something else. I have yet to meet a person whom I disagree with on every single topic. Sometimes we like to think conservatives are from another planet (or time) or liberals are out to destroy America (if not the world). By putting myself in there with the worst of the worst, I hope to show that anyone can engage in meaningful dialog with anyone else, if you try hard enough.
So, that's the reason you'll see some people on my Facebook wall that you might not want to deal with. If you don't, that's perfectly understandable. I ask that you not defriend me or disengage with the conversation. It's really easy to block people on Facebook so that you can't even tell they are there and they can't tell you are there. If you need to know how, contact me and I'll walk you through it.