Practicing Kindness Toward Conservatives

Post by Pace Smith for the Kind Kindred series.

image courtesy of iiwiiemporium on Etsy

I’m a liberal. I like peace, civil rights, and helping out those who are less fortunate. I used to believe that conservatives were ignorant, selfish idiots.

This is the story of how I opened my heart, how it changed my life, and how it can change the world.

A blog post changed my life

How often can you honestly say, without exaggeration, “a blog post changed my life?”

That’s what happened to me when I read Red Family, Blue Family by Doug Muder. Here’s how he built a bridge between my worldview and the conservative worldview.

First, he pointed at the ground I’m standing on. He pointed out one big assumption I’m making about how things work in the world:

I choose my obligations.

I choose who to marry, and together we choose what that commitment means to us.
I choose what kind of relationship (close, distant, or none at all) I wish to have with my parents and my extended family.
I choose how I want to raise my children, or whether to have children at all.
I choose what religion or spiritual path feels right to me.

Conservatives have a different assumption:

You inherit your obligations.

Marriage is the way it is; you don’t get to choose what it means to you.
You are obligated to your parents, and it is wrong to choose to shirk that obligation.
You are obligated to raise your children right.
You are obligated to practice the right religion.

Building a bridge

The assumptions we make are background noise. By pointing at an assumption and naming it, you can bring it from your subconscious to your conscious awareness, where you can think about it and imagine, “How would I feel if I saw the world differently?”

When I imagined how I would feel if I believed, “I inherit my obligations,” I stepped into the shoes of a conservative.

In that moment, I didn’t become an ignorant, selfish idiot. I became exactly who I was a minute ago, but with one important belief changed. I felt the change in my body. I felt the change in my heart.

And I felt compassion for those I had once reviled.

Miller’s Law

You can apply this to anyone whose actions or words don’t make sense to you. Apply Miller’s Law:

“To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of.”

In other words, “How would I have to see the world for this to be a sensible thing to say?”

These questions shift your perspective from judgment to curiosity. Curiosity leads to understanding, and understanding leads to compassion.

Why compassion is selfish

This isn’t just a nice, altruistic thing to do when you’ve just gotten back from your yoga class and you’re feeling open-hearted.

This is a necessary thing to do if you want to avoid burnout.

Outrage weakens your heart. Judging others harshly wears down your soul.

If you want to create change in the world, or even just live a life of peace and happiness, you must first create peace in your own heart.

The war inside your heart

If there is anyone, or any group of people, you feel you are unable to understand, unable to feel compassion toward, then there is a war inside your heart.

Make a peace offering. Offer a parley under a flag of truce.

Sit down across the table from your enemy, and ask, “How would I have to see the world for this to be a sensible way to be?”

Pace Smith (The Pathfinding Coach) helps sensitive spiritual nonconformists live wild crazy meaningful lives. She’s also a teacher, a speaker, a writer, a Sufi dervish, a bi poly trans gamer geek, an open-source Reiki healer, and a tournament-level Dance Dance Revolution player. Download her free eBook, Find Your Path Now, to STOP living on autopilot and START living the wholehearted, unconventional life you were meant to live.

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