Real Help for Real Living
I’ve had the privilege over the years of serving on several nonprofit boards, one for more than 10 years.
That board decided to get together last January for some fun and fellowship with one another. I got there early and was the first to greet the president, and, as time progressed, all but one member arrived.
While we were waiting for the tardy party to arrive, one member started an interesting discussion. She had a very strong opinion about the November 2010 election and the change in Raleigh from a Democrat to a Republican majority. She went on and on talking about what she referred to as “those people.” Actually, she went on and on and on and on. She spoke about the other political party and its ideology, and as she talked, the entire group agreed with her and was united with her in her political views.
Problem was, I was of the other political party. Finally, after 10 minutes, the president elbowed her, indicated me and said, “He’s one of ‘those’ people.”
There was an incredibly awkward silence in the room. Everyone realized she had been talking about me. She looked at me and asked, “How can you be one of ‘those’ people?”
It was as if I was the “enemy.”
She didn’t ask me to defend my political views. We had been friends for too long. Rather, we talked and laughed. I had known her for years and had a great respect for her community service. As a public servant, she worked tirelessly to better our community. But because we were of different political parties, we saw the path of bettering our community differently.
What’s interesting is that for a decade, she thought we were of the same political party, and we got along very well. That day, she realized we were of different political parties, and we still get along very well. We laughed over dinner, acknowledging our differences while reaffirming our commitment to each other and our community.
A few days ago, we had the privilege of participating in this “experiment” of self-government by the people. I love the fact that we’re different. If both of us always agreed, one of us isn’t necessary (think about that). In addition to our political arena, there are great associations and organizations in our community. Their members don’t always agree. When they discuss issues and hear each other’s wisdom, great outcomes are often the results. Had one of the members been adamant about their position and forced the results they wanted, the group could have missed a great opportunity.
Differences aren’t bad – whether it’s in politics, work, friendships or even marriage. What’s bad is when the differences cause us to attack the other person rather than define the problem. Then we’re more interested in “winning” rather than doing what is best for our country, our workplaces, our friendships and, yes, even our marriages. Let me encourage you to have great political discussions. Keep your passion about your political viewpoints. But don’t use the phrase, “You’re wrong.”
Rather, say, “I respect your opinion. I disagree with you, and here’s why.”
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friends.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. The organization provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.