Often we see other people as sports teams. There are sides, one of which will win. This is problematic because no one wants to be the “loser,” and eventually we all end up yelling at each other so loudly that there’s no chance of reconciliation.
Because of this, I’ve been trying to reframe how I see others, here’s the image I’ve started to develop.
I see my consciousness as a circle that started out pretty small (like they do when you’re a child). As I grew older, the edges of my circle grew out. It’s not something that was forced, it happened organically through small interactions and experiences. I have a couple of specific examples that stand out in my mind even though they were both years ago.
Inside my circle, the right way to be was Republican. I wasn’t ever explicitly told that, but that was the impression I had. One day, I found out that my Sunday School teacher was a Democrat. This confused me.
It caused cognitive dissonance for a while. This also gave me the small realization that someone I knew and trusted and saw as a good person didn’t have the exact same beliefs as me. Suddenly, I didn’t see all Democrats as complete sinners with no hope for redemption.
Fast forward a few years. Inside my circle (bigger now), evolution was a silly idea that I learned how to combat with all the righteous knowledge bestowed upon me by the Great Creationists. I had long-winded discussions with friends that involved throwing facts back and forth, trying to stump each other in an ultimately fruitless battle.
Then, one day, as a side comment, a much loved and respected elder in our church said that he believed in evolution. This confused me. This caused cognitive dissonance. Goodness knows I didn’t change my mind right then, but suddenly trying to understand the other side felt less like a betrayal.
With each small experience, over a long period of time, I realized that it was okay for me to question my reality. And not be terrified that I might be wrong.
How does this change how I live in the world today?
A lot of times, I can’t do much. What I can do is go into conversations with intention and openness, knowing that my circle is going to continue to grow. Maybe I can be the small interaction that allows someone else to grow their own circle.
And slowly, maybe our circles will overlap; and we’ll be able to see the humanity in others that we embrace in ourselves.