I believe in… the other side. That’s right – I believe in the ones who are ‘mistaken,’ ‘sadly lacking in the facts,’ or, just plain wrong.
I believe I need them, and not to prove I’m right, either. I need the other side to give my thoughts, my impressions and my opinions more depth.
One very practical reason for believing in the inherent value of ‘the other side,’ is that I’ve been over there a few times, myself. I’d still be there, too, if I didn’t believe we all – potentially – have some things to offer, and we all – definitely – have some things to learn.
With the new Congress, everyone in Washington DC has been talking ‘bipartisan,’ often times with the caveats that ‘we won’t betray our principles’ and ‘there are some things which can brook no compromise,’ two proclamations which seem to miss the point of working with ‘the other side.’
Believing in the other side isn’t about taking one principle while eschewing its opposite! It isn’t about compromise, one way or the other. Believing in the other side means using our principles to guide our thinking, rather than betraying our principles with stubbornness. It’s about consideration, not compromise. Believing in the other side replaces arrogance and character assassination with understanding and re-evaluation. By taking the stand that others who disagree might have something to offer (despite their obvious wrongness), we might even be able to convince a few people to our way of thinking.
Believing in the other side is the best solution to one of life’s most vexing problems – frustration. Often, we end up demonizing those who disagree with us. Rather than seeing the other side as a person or group of people c an provide at least one valid idea, we reduce them to hurdles that must be overcome, dislodged, or simply pulverized to get what we want, like a three year old who throws a wild temper tantrum to get another cookie. Believing in the other side recognizes the humanity that’s there, all around, and so breeds maturity and appreciation, rather than dissent and friction.
Believing in the other side fosters creativity – by avoiding the pitfalls of entrenched and obstinant opinion, we can see the areas of our own thinking that need a little bostering, gaps in our data that need some researching, and new questions that need answering before we are, indeed, positive we are on the correct side.
I believe in the other side, even when it feels impossible to do. Around election time, I certainly find it tough to talk to family members who hold some more extreme opinions – and I know they find it difficult to talk to me, too. Yet, overall, I think believing in the other side is worthwhile to attempt, even if we can’t always achieve it – it’s the other side who brings challenges and broadens awareness. I believe in them.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.