We are a family of four people - two Democrats, one Republican, and one Independent. This would have made for an interesting Thanksgiving dinner - had we spent it together. Sadly, we did not. But the divide doesn't end with our immediate family; it spans to the generation of my elders. My father, aunts, uncles, and cousins are all at odds. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest when I engage in conversation, seemingly innocent, that without warning turns to politics. It's not just that I hate confrontation that I feel so apprehensive when engaging in this battle with family; it's that I value the relationship and don't want to jeopardize it. These relationships seem more fragile than I first realized.
Whether you've found that your children voted for someone on the other side of the aisle or you and your father can't see eye to eye on the President, the ruling party, or the role of the media, I encourage you to look for ways to let go of your political differences in favor of relationship. You can let go of the differences without letting go of your own opinions and ideologies.
1. Remember that blood is thicker than water (or political parties). Just as the pundits continue to spout that some politicians are putting party over country, it's crucial that we do not put party over family. Your heart should rule, not your politics. The word of the day is "love" and should always be the center from which our words come.
2. Always assume the best. Your son or daughter (or father or sister) do not hold their opinions in order to hurt you. If you're going to presuppose, at least presuppose good intentions and not bad ones.
"When we encounter someone who sees an issue differently than we do, the human response is to assume the person is foolish, ignorant, or perhaps even just mean. According to Ignatius, when we encounter someone we disagree with, what Christ would have us do is to check our emotions, and “presuppose” good intentions on the part of the other" (Hogan, 2012)
3. Adults have the right to their own opinions (even if you think they're wrong! ;)) One of the perks of adulthood is the right to your own opinion. When we dismiss another's opinion as wrong or stupid, we dismiss their status as a grown up. Respect one another's opinions. You don't have to agree with someone to show them respect.
4. Take the high road. Model best behavior. Stop waiting for Congress to display bipartisanship and exercise it within your own familial congress. The most basic definition of "congress" is the action of coming together (thank goodness for my Latin education!). Don't wait for others to move toward you - move toward them! Our children, even our grown children, learn how to engage with others who think differently than they do from watching us. What are you teaching them today?
5. Don't confuse a difference of opinion with sin. Holding a different opinion, belonging to a different political party, or voting for a candidate are not sins. Don't confuse "ideology" (a system of ideas and ideals) and "theology" (the study of the nature of God and religious belief). Both exist; sometimes they intersect or overlap; sometimes they don't. If you respond to your son or daughter's different ideology as sin, you create the division.
Letting go of our political differences is not defeat or retreat. It is not weakness. It is not wrong. It is love. And it is life-giving. How? Let's be reminded of the definition of love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NIV).
When your thoughts (or words) turn to "You voted for _________! I thought I raised you better than that" just remember, they are acting out of how you raised them. Did you raise discerning and thinking kids who grew up to be discerning and thinking adults? Good for you! Just don't expect the conclusions their discernment leads them to will always be the same conclusions you've come to.
Love well my friends!