Opinion: Why I am thankful for my liberal friends, family

Growing up, and still today, I can count my conservative friends on both hands, and conservative family on just one hand. Perhaps to your surprise, this is something I find as a great blessing, a great teaching point and a great reminder. Let me tell you why.

In today’s heated political climate the gap between liberals and conservatives only widens. The biggest issue with the growing animosity is it encourages, if not pushes, people to stay amongst like-minded people. When you only surround yourself with like-minded people or news for that matter, you learn nothing, you change nothing and you achieve nothing.

Sure, it’s easier and more comfortable to chat among friends that think exactly like you, although perhaps a bit dull. But that’s the issue – it’s simply that, chatting.

My friends and family’s opposing views remind me that just because someone thinks differently than you does not mean they are wrong, nor that you are wrong. What it means instead is that there is a discussion to be had, there is something to be learned on all sides.

I think today it is so easy to cast opposite views as horribly wrong. My loved ones’ opposing views remind me that most issues are not black and white, even though they can seem that way when you feel strongly about something. And so, thanks to them, whenever I have something I feel strongly about I am reminded, ‘Hey, there is a counter view about this. It’s time to try and understand it before you decided how you really feel.’

This rolls into the next thing my family and friends with different views do for me, they teach me.

Let’s take a hot topic example – abortion. I have always been pro-life and a significant amount of the people I love most are pro-choice.

When I was young, I believed simply this, “abortion is wrong because it is the murder of innocent life. Because it is wrong, it should never be allowed.” And yes, I was raised (and still am) Catholic.

As I have grown, I have heard the views of those around me – mostly views that are pro-choice. At first, I could not comprehend the pro-choice view. But, because I respect those who surrounded me so much, I listened to them. And through discussions and listening, I came to understand why people might be pro-choice. I came to see that perhaps it was not as black and white as I had thought.

Now, I am still pro-life but I understand some arguments for pro-choice. I think that is what matters most – understanding the opposite view. Understanding brings respect, respect turns into discussions, and discussions turn into change.

And that brings me to why these friends and family are one of the biggest blessings in my life.

Discussing politics with loved ones who think differently than you is not always easy but if done with respect, it is a rewarding and eye-opening conversation. I don’t sugar coat my thoughts when I talk with my close friends and family because I know they love me. Having friends and family that listen to me, and that I can listen to them is a gift that many do not have – especially today.

Having hard, thought-provoking, and sometimes challenging conversations are the discussions that will push you and make you grow the most. In addition to gaining insight to other views, when you are able to have these conversations it forces you to look at your own beliefs and play Devil’s Advocate, asking why you believe what you do.

I think that if more people were surrounded by loved ones that thought differently than them, there would be more discussions and less yelling, more love and less hate, and more change and less backtracking.

So thank you to my friends and family that challenge me, that counter me, that listen to me, that let me listen to them, that discus with me, and most importantly love me. Without trying, you make me stronger in my beliefs and more open to new and different beliefs all at the same time. And I believe that together, we can make the world a better place.