Reality Check: Must we disagree?

Do you want to get along with others? With all kinds of people in the world, each with our different beliefs and values, it’s impossible to agree with everyone. Sometimes those disagreements are minor, while others cut to the very core of what we care about.

If all you want is to get along, then it may be helpful to avoid discussing politics, religion, or anything of substance and stick to the weather, on which we can (mostly) agree. But where is the fun in that?

Rhonda and Vincent were neighbours as children. From the first time they made mud pies together, through school, moves, and job changes, they have remained fast friends.

However, just because you are friends doesn’t mean that you share identical beliefs. Over the years, the environments that Rhonda has worked and studied in have made her sensitive to language. She particularly bristles at the use of slurs and cultural stereotypes. She knows that some words and phrases that were perfectly acceptable at the time of her childhood are, for some, offensive “button-pushers” now.

Vincent has remained pretty much the same good ol’ boy that he’s always been. For him, the term “politically correct” holds neither interest nor value.

When Vincent says something that Rhonda finds inflammatory, she lets him know. Vincent brushes it off, “Aww, you know I don’t mean nothin’ by it.”

Rhonda knows it’s true. She knows Vincent’s character, his heart of gold. When Vincent sees an individual in need, he helps. He’s as likely to jump in a freezing river to rescue an “identifiable group” member as anyone else, all without a thought.

So Rhonda recognizes that this isn’t a disagreement about fundamental values.

However, she has trouble reconciling her new beliefs with her old friend. Further, Rhonda’s new friends are questioning how she can spend time with this man; a man so uneducated that he can say such things!

The conversations that used to be so much fun have become angry and accusatory. They argue when Rhonda points out some insensitive thing that Vincent has blurted out. Vincent wonders whether he shouldn’t just, “Shut up and let you do all the talking, because whatever I say, it’s wrong.”

As is often the case, a clear-eyed examination of, “What you want” can be helpful. However, Rhonda is unlikely to get exactly what she thinks she wants. That is, she cannot force Vincent into becoming a new, improved, more sensitive friend.

So, Rhonda, “Do you want to maintain the relationship with Vincent that you have valued for so many years?”

It’s Ronda’s call. She may find that this is a deal-breaker for her—without changes on Vincent’s part, she no longer wants to be friends. Or she may find that the good that comes with maintaining a relationship with Vincent outweighs the bad that she perceives.

It’s hard to find perfect friends. Then again, it’s hard to be perfect oneself, eh?

If you were Rhonda, would you want to stay friends? Or do you need to be recognized as right, even if you lose your friend? Either way, is what Rhonda is doing (criticizing) helping? Let me know

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