Mind the Gap? Building Bridges When Differences Abound
Joshua Dunford recently received his undergraduate degree in Public Relations and is in the process of pursuing a law degree. He currently works at a nonprofit organization that serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. He primarily works with hispanic victims and does peer advocacy coordination within adolescent and young adult populations. He's also passionate about video production and protecting the rights of the LGBT community. On a personal note, Josh is wonderful friend and someone I've learned a great deal from, even though we agree about virtually nothing.
Let me just start here. Evelyn and I are great friends, and we disagree on just about everything under the sun.
It’s an odd relationship to have, especially given the current way in which we as members of society consume the information we are presented. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, human beings have an inherent desire to belong. Sometimes that means surrounding yourself with people who agree with you, and sometimes that means being with people who don’t like the same things, ideologies, politicians, you don’t like.
There is security inside the echo chamber many of us call home. It’s easy to be a Republican in Idaho or a Democrat in California. Buddhism is the obvious choice in Cambodia, where 96.9% of the population agrees with your choice. Mormonism is the top choice in many Idaho communities because that's what most people do. If you don’t believe in any God of any sort, around 47% of all Chinese people feel the same way.
It’s easy to do what you feel is right when the majority of people around you affirm your beliefs, whether they be religious or political; many of us will do what is easy and let the consequence follow.
So how do we get along with those who are the “antithesis” of everything we are? Some of us hold opposing beliefs, and that's fine. Beliefs are true to the person who holds them. Regardless of our disagreement, a belief in a religion is not disprovable. Empirically, Islam and Christianity are as true as Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Nor, in my opinion, should we waste our time trying to do so.
At the end of the day, our differences do not need to define our relationships. Like I said before Evelyn and I are different in almost every conceivable way. We differ in our belief in God. Our religious affiliation, We differ on political preference. We differ on our views on religious freedom. We talk differently and think differently, but we can come together on one thing. We are both passionate. Granted we are passionate about ideas many consider mutually exclusive.
We agree to disagree on somethings and choose to spend time acknowledging our similarities rather than our differences because our similarities are what bring us together.
Evelyn and I are both passionate about personal freedoms and the law. We both care deeply for victims of domestic crimes and work to improve their lives. We want to work as advocates.
We have similarities and differences with everyone we associate with. For some reason, human beings have a habit to not be able to overlook certain differences, things we consider too crucial to our identity. If we change our thinking and look for the things that are crucial to our similarities, we will see that we agree on much more than we disagree on and that we are much closer than we ever thought possible.