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"Friendship in a polarized world" by Meg Herriot (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2013), CC0/PD[/caption] I hope we all remember to nurture our friendships, especially those that challenge us. A few weeks ago, I found a towel that said, "We've been friends for so long, I can't remember which one of us is the bad dnfluence." As I was pondering whether to get this for my friend, my mom just blurted out, "You are getting that for her, right?" She saw the towel and immediately thought of the same friend I was thinking of. Sometimes, I think of us like the characters in the Bette Middler movie, Beaches. I might be a little more Bette Midler and she might be a little more the other character, but we might also split that a little even. I'm more conservative; she's more liberal. I'm religious; she's secular. I'm barely over 5 feet; she's closer to 6. It took me 72,000 steps to finish our marathon; it took her 55,000. I'm a married family woman; she's single. In college, she helped me with her editing skills. As my husband can attest, my grammar probably would have had me failed out of many classes if it hadn't been for her help. I helped her not burn the house down. She didn't know how to cook even macaroni and cheese at that time (she is now something close to a gourmet cook through many years of practice). We met because of her old roommate whom neither one of us has talked to in over 20 years, by chance. But instead of the "wind beneath my wings" she probably thinks I'm the blisters beneath her feet. I'm the one who recruited her to come down from New England and run another marathon with me. After finishing our marathon and eating a much-earned wonderful meal made by my husband, my friend looked at me as if she was just struck with a new realization: "This was your fault; you are the one who got me to do this crazy thing." She was ultimately happy that I challenged her, and it was an excuse for us to get together and bond, but she experienced the travails of the marathon just like I did. While I joked with her about doing a "Tough Mudder" as our next endeavor, she firmly stated that a spa weekend would be our next excursion. She asked my husband if he could think of anything the two of us had in common. He had a blank look. I didn't realize how much this bothered her until the next day when she said, "I can't believe he couldn't think of anything we shared in common." I reminded her that this is the same wonderful man who was engaged to me and couldn't remember what eye color I had; being observant wasn't really his greatest skill. We dabbled in the topics of religion and politics a little and then we stepped back. We have worked out a rhythm of about how much we can dialogue before it no longer becomes dialogue. As we were spending time together I turned to her and said, "I think I know what we have in common; we are generous with each other and others and we like to think the best of people." We are idealists and though some of our moral values are not the same, we know we are both trying to be the best people we can be. We ask questions of each other without insulting the other. In a world of polarization, it makes a big difference if we are trying to understand each other or convert one another. Our friendship is one of conversion, not of each other, but of ourselves. We hold each other accountable to be the best they can be. We are not always diplomatic with each other (both of us have abruptly laid the truth out for each other when it comes to relationships). She's my friend who told me, "He's too hot for you" about a boyfriend and she turned out to be right. He was not my type. She knows and respects my religious values. She knows and appreciates I pray for her and her family. I don’t hesitate from talking about my faith with her, but I try to be conscientious and not pressure her. I have told her before, “I want you to convert, but I only want you to convert because you believe.” She tries to convince me that we are really more alike on some issues and we should just “compromise.” I stand firm and say issues of life and death can’t be compromised. Sometimes, joys come in friendships not over common interest, but over common good. Sometimes, we are called to engage with those who aren't in our "sphere" of likes and dislikes. Our society is becoming more and more polarized and it is easier for us all to judge and separate and label and think of "other" as someone separate and not someone we need or choose to have a relationship with, but whether it's our family, friend or acquaintance, it's great to see and try to understand the "other". Even if I see her through eyes of faith, and she sees me through the eyes of a humanitarian, we can still see each other as sisters in humanity and friends. I still pray for her and she knows and respects that it is because of love. What do you think? How do you dialogue with people with very different beliefs?
Copyright 2020 Meg Herriot