Ever since the local election, I've lost some friends over differences in opinions on the candidates. Now that the vote is over, how can I patch those bridges and be friends again? This messy little election sure makes my heart ache.
Rocky Mountain Spring Water Tears
Dear Springin’ Tears,
Your situation is not uncommon, unfortunately. Somebody runs for some kind of office, and somebody runs against. People line up on one side or the other, then become hyper-sensitive to their perceived opposition. There are a number of intellectual errors that often take place. The most obvious one is that people with strong feelings forget that they are expressing their opinion. Many folks mistake their opinions about candidate’s faults or strengths as undeniable facts rather than merely an opinion. When they are approached with an opposing thought, massive constipation begins. In order to avoid this problem, people generally surround themselves with people who think like they do. Then they can rant to an appreciative audience: liberal or conservative, gay or straight, vegan or meat lover, rich or poor, ad infinitum. As I have found that in this world of press-driven divisiveness, differing beliefs are seen as an attack rather an opportunity to understand the other person’s point of view. Just because I understand someone’s political stance does not mean I have to agree with them.
I have a life-long friend who feels very differently than I do on a number of political issues. We have agreed to keep politics out of our friendship. I have had to remind fine friend a time or two that our great friendship is politically neutral, and 45 years later, here we are, happy as clams. Looking back at the beginning days of our friendship, we liked each other’s company, had fun and shared plenty of common interests. I have no idea who she voted for in 1972, nor does it matter. Besides, logically, neither one of us is going to change the beliefs of one another, so why on earth get into a fuss? The mistake you and your friends made is to debate the candidate’s worthiness with friendship on the line. We are so trained to respond to what someone says that no one takes the lead in kindly refusing to debate a simple matter of opinion. In your case, someone needs to try to repair the unnecessary damage by taking the lead, and in so many words, lovingly agree to disagree. What’s more important, a friendship or who or what you voted for? If friends cannot mend simple fences, the friendship was pretty light weight from the start. Fortunately, we live here in the United States of America where we all get to have an opinion. Lucky us. I hope your hot headed friends feel the same.