Theres one thing about family that is fascinating to me, we don’t get to choose who we end up with, but once we realize who we’re stuck with for the rest of our lives, we get to make the decision to have amazing, deep, life-giving relationships, or to hate their guts because we don’t get along. It’s all our decision.
Growing up, my extended family didn’t always get along very well. You see, the Barlow side of the family is extremely diverse, you have righties and lefties, musicians and mathematicians, evolutionists and creationists, artists and businessman, christians and atheists, uptight and relaxed, and the list goes on. As a child, I truly believed that the way to have good relationships with those that were on the opposite end of the spectrum was to prove to them that what I believed was right and they were wrong… I needed to get them to join MY way of thinking, and then I could love them without judgment and we’d be besties for the rest of our lives! Right?
Oh sweet Natalie, you were so wrong.
Over the years, I’d have to say that one of the biggest, if not the biggest lesson I’ve learned, is that love does not equal agreement.
It hit me in the face today, as I posted a link to a political article on fb, not sharing too much, but clearly sharing who I wasn’t supporting in the election, and one of my cousins replied with a fairly long post, disagreeing with the argument, and sharing where he believed it was wrong, stating strongly how he felt, yet closed the post with a few sweet words and an inside joke from when we were young… then I began to realize, these ones who I believed are so different than me, have played a large role in teaching me one of the biggest, truest lessons of my life, disagreement doesn’t mean that I’m not loved.
The truth is, we all desire to be loved, we want people to like us, to believe we’re wise, smart, and to understand us. Many times we believe that those feelings must be accompanied with agreement, but it’s just not true.
Jesus actually modeled this the best, he hung out with every type of person, spent time in their homes, loved them, never told them to get their act together and agree with him, he actually just loved, and as needed, shared truth…and even when people disagreed with him, he let them do it. He didn’t need to defend himself, he knew that in the end, what mattered is that he showed love in its purest form…without an ounce of hatred, judgment, or pride.
This doesn’t mean I have to be a doormat and never stick up for what I believe in, because believe me, I have strong beliefs and hold to them dearly, but I’ve been learning that I don’t need to let those beliefs come in between me and loving someone.
If I can enter a conversation and seek to understand someone, where they’re coming from, why they’re in that position, then the conversation can remain loving through any disagreement that may come about, we can both respectfully seek to understand the other persons point of view, rather than trying to shove it down their throats how “right” we are and how “wrong” they are. And if the outcome is that we still disagree, so be it, but I want there to never be a doubt in that persons mind that I love and honor them…and will continue to no matter what disagreement comes about.
I truly believe that relationships as a whole would change if we could change our mantra from agreement to understanding and from judgment to love.
So thank you, family, (even though you probably didn’t know you were doing it) for helping to teach me such a beautiful lesson in how to disagree with someone, yet still love them. It’s changed my life and is transforming every single one of my relationships.