How we disagree with each other

I have been reading and listening and watching how people disagree with each other (which reminds me that my ex-husband scolded me for using each other instead of one another, or vice versa, at one point.  I still don’t know which is correct, and frankly, on this one, I don’t care).

Mary in Africa reminded me the other day that walking away with a self-satisfied smirk on your face is not really all that respectful.  I had done that very thing the day before.  When she wrote about it, I remembered how I felt when my former husband had done that to me.  As if I weren’t worth the time or effort to have a difficult conversation.  As if he already knew that I had nothing of merit to say, so he didn’t want to hear it.

We in “recovery” are perhaps the worst at this.  We tend, maybe more than others, to name-call and label.  Calling someone “toxic,” “dry-drunk,” “racist,” “sexist,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “homophobe,” etc., does not add any value to a conversation.  If I label you, then I can dismiss you.  I don’t need to listen to you because I have already decided you are of limited intelligence or inferior motives.

Most of my best friends are of a political mind that is 180 degrees from mine.  We can respectfully talk with each other.  We can find what we DO agree on.  We can find common ground from which to start.  Sometimes it took a lot of work to get where we are.  We did not walk away.  We did not dismiss the other.  We worked at it.  We pushed back at our anger and tried to LISTEN.  We do not have to agree on everything.  But we can find agreement in some things.

We do not place the way we feel above all other things.  We have learned that sometimes life is difficult and uncomfortable – and that is when we can learn an awful lot.

I am so grateful for what I have learned while trying to live by a set of principles.  The second ten years were revolutionary for me.  The third ten years are turning out to be as well, but in a quieter way.  I am glad I haven’t decided I know everything.  Life is changing and evolving.

God continually puts people, places, and things in my life that I can decide to learn from or walk away from.  I hope to continue to plug away at this thing.

It has been awfully good so far.

May the spoken words of my mouth, the thoughts of my heart, win favor in your sight, O Lord.  — Ps 19:15



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10 Responses to How we disagree with each other

  1. Dave U says:

    A lot of recovery this morning. For that, I am grateful.

  2. luluberoo says:

    Thoughtful post, well written, and perfect scripture for the occasion.

  3. Syd says:

    I would like to have that kind of conversation. I tend to avoid the “hot button” issues when talking with others. I strive for neutral ground. But I do so like to converse about the topics of the day. Hope that you have a good one, MC.

  4. Over the last ten years I have had to work on controlling my facial expressions in addition to holding my tongue. In my line of work, one offended client is a guarantee of bad PR. It has served me well in some circles in my community in that this region can be fairly rigid in their beliefs without too much tolerance for the conflicting point of view. On the flip side, I can often appear too detached and its unfortunate because I do have thoughts and would like to share occasionally.

  5. Mary LA says:

    I’ve been thinking about this and the reality that lies behind epithets. I remember being terribly shocked and outraged the first time an ex-lover called me an alcoholic. He was angry and I thought he just wanted to hurt me. But it was the truth and that truth needed to be spoken. There was no good time to say it to me, ever, because I did not want to hear it.

    This too. If somebody has sex with me against my will, forces me to have sex without consent, I call that rape and I call that person a rapist. He may not want to think of himself that way but it is the truth.
    The reality matters and the list of names you so helpfully give us here have to do not just with perceptions and labels, but with the realities behind the words. If someone thinks of black people as inferior to whites, then that person is racist — the term may offend him or her, but it is accurate. And if someone thinks of lesbian and gay people as not deserving the same social rights as heterosexuals, that attitude is discriminatory, even if there is no deep-seated irrational fear and hatred of homosexuality. If such labels are used just to accuse someone of harbouring such views without any reality behind them, that is negative labelling.

    Terms like ‘toxic’ or dry drunk’ are in another category and need another kind of analysis — is the intention hurtful and dismissive or is this someone trying to articulate that there is a problem, that the recovering person is behaving in ways that resemble actively alcoholic behaviour? Is this dynamic in a family experienced as ‘poisonous’ and contagious in some way? So much depends on context.

    Thank you for posting this, Mary Christine.

    • Thanks Mary. I have thought about your comment all day. I think you are right, that we need to call things what they are. But I think it is too easy in some cases just to call someone something rather than really trying.

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