How can I talk with people who have differing political viewpoints?
Q: How can I talk with people who have differing political viewpoints?
A: Talking about politics can be scary! The challenge with many political conversations is that they seem to come down to who’s right and who’s wrong—as though that’s more important than anything else.
But what if political conversations could have a deeper purpose? I had a real “aha” moment about this several years ago. I was spending the evening with a friend, and our conversation somehow turned into a heated political debate. He quickly became angry with me, and though I tried reasoning with a lot of different points that I thought would reach him, none did. While I wasn’t getting angry in return, I was getting quite intimidated.
Finally, I decided to stop trying either to think of what to say next or to reason with his vastly different viewpoint. In that space of quietness, a new idea occurred to me: I was not in this discussion to try to change someone’s mind, or to validate anyone’s opinion, including my own. My job was to be a healer.
As I am a Christian Scientist, the idea of being a healer wasn’t a new one to me. In fact, this was often the way I’d approached other situations in my life—just never political conversations! So how did it apply here?
Mary Baker Eddy’s words about healers gave me some insight. For example, she wrote, “That individual is the best healer who asserts himself the least, and thus becomes a transparency for the divine Mind …” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 59 ). In this passage, as in all her writings, Mind refers to God.
I was not in this discussion to try to change someone’s mind, or to validate anyone’s opinion, including my own. My job was to be a healer.
If my job was to let Mind, God, divine good, shine through me and my conversation, that meant I didn’t have to sift through my mental database of political facts. Instead, I could let God “be with [my] mouth” (Exodus 4:12 ). In getting my own opinions out of the way, I was making space for God’s healing ideas to take center stage.
So, at an appropriate pause, I opened my mouth, and this is what came out: “Here’s what I actually think: I want to live a life that contributes to a world where this issue is no longer an issue. ’Til then, I just don’t think I have anything to add.” I didn’t feel the need to elaborate or to try to convince him of anything.
Well, my friend seemed a little stunned. Because I was no longer trying to argue a position, there was nothing for his arguments to “stick to.” But he seemed to agree that it was time to move on. And yes, we stayed good friends.
Now you might be wondering, “What’s healing about that? You just opened your mouth and said something, and the conversation moved on.” But actually, that moment was pretty incredible: You could feel all the tension and aggression go out of the room, and all that remained was a genuine appreciation for each other as individuals, rather than members of different political parties. I should also mention that we went on to have other political conversations, which were always characterized by appreciation for what each person was bringing to the table. There had definitely been healing in that relationship!
With healing as our starting point, we can begin to see that there is room for marvelous diversity in the universe ordered by God, and that no one’s progress can come at another’s expense.
We all can learn from productive, open, honest engagement with each other. To actually find solutions that transcend party lines, however, it is helpful to start from a standpoint of healing. The specific words you say, or the way you “let God fill your mouth,” may look different from one situation to another. But you’ll know you’re being a healer when you feel yourself letting go of the need to assert your own personal sense of yourself—expressed as a certain opinion or carefully constructed argument—and being a witness to infinite, intelligent Mind in action.
With healing as our starting point, we can begin to see that there is room for marvelous diversity in the universe ordered by God, and that no one’s progress can come at another’s expense. We’ll also find that even the smallest conversation can provide an opportunity for our love for God, and God’s love for all of us, to shine through. Divine Love is the unifying power that truly does govern everyone, and brings inspired solutions to light.