Part of the book I’m writing focuses on friendship and what friendship means for our sense of self and our “becoming Authentic.” One thing I keep coming back to is the value of having friends who think or believe differently than we do. Friendships are grown out of discovered shared interests, but of course we don’t share everything with friends. I have several friends with whom I only share one common interest, be it reading, running, writing, or even an affection for the awesome man I get to call my husband. (He’s delightful and hilariously acerbic and I love his friends who love him.) There are many, many areas where these one-interest friends and I differ and disagree. At times, I think those areas can be the most important.
One of my dear friends has started a podcast with two of her dear friends. The three of them talk about anything and everything, but always relate the topic back to how Christians should live and be in the world. They are thoughtful and funny and I have loved listening to their back-and-forths as I walk to and from my favorite coffee shop for writing on the weekends. Take a listen.
One of the best parts about the podcast, for me, is that I don’t agree with everything they say. In fact, I now have a very different theological and cultural view than they do, even though years ago my thinking aligned more with theirs. (The life I’ve lived will do that to a person.) BUT I know these people to be thoughtful and loving people. So I listen. And since it’s a podcast, I have no choice but to only listen. I don’t get to interject or interrupt (shameful) or try to make sure my voice and opinion are heard. I get only to think about their point of view as I truly listen to what they’re saying. I learn from them and find some wisdom that gets me to reframe some of what I think (or to think of it afresh). In so doing, they remind me that there are rational, loving ways of arriving at conclusions that differ from the conclusions I reached through my own rational, loving ways. I have reasons for thinking otherwise than they do, but that fact alone does not invalidate their perspective and their views.
Since we are starting from a place of already loving and caring about these people (the “love” part of friendship), if we take the time to really listen to our friends, especially the ones who have different views than we do, we are better able to really consider and try to understand an argument or perspective we may have dismissed outright if heard from people we dislike or don’t know. After listening and considering, maybe we find new arguments (for us) for holding even more strongly to our existing view; maybe we find ourselves modifying our views a bit to accommodate or assimilate the new information or perspective our friends have presented. This is a wonderful value of friendships, the way that they open up our minds to different ways of seeing and interpreting the world and the way they give us ideas and arguments (of the rational, not combative, variety) that we can add, in whatever way most proper to them, to our broadened understanding of the world. As much as agreement feels really, really good, it’s not quite as fun or enriching as a vigorous, affectionate donnybrook.