LEARNING TO BE DISAGREEABLE
I grew up afraid of people that disagreed with me. I think I learned to do that in church. The standard reaction to those we disagreed with was avoidance. I remember learning that one of my friends in 5th grade was Catholic. It was the first time I had to put a face on someone who clearly had a different way of looking at the world. My mother had told me she was afraid of nuns as a little girl because they looked like witches. Since I was afraid of and generally avoided witches – it made sense to avoid Catholics — until one sat next to me in class and became one of my best friends. Years later, when I was in college, an actual witch sat next to me in class. She turned out to be lovely. Fortunately, somewhere between 5th grade and college, I figured out how to engage with people I disagreed with. In fact, I learned to appreciate them, to even enjoy them. Differing beliefs have continued to be a green flag for me when creating friendships.
I’m in a weekly card game with some very vocal Atheists. They know I don’t share their beliefs. They happen to be magicians and former carnies, fields of interest we share a passion for. I am BY FAR the least interesting guy at the card table. These are the men great novels revolve around. I’ve learned so much just listening to them talk. I think it takes a lot of courage to be an Atheist. Leaving the idea of God behind is a scary proposition to me. It’s not why I maintain an interest in matters of faith. I’ve moved beyond being motivated by fear — at least when it comes to spirituality. I genuinely believe. But still, these men have taken a difficult stand on faith. If I’m honest, I’d usually rather spend an evening talking about the transrational nature of belief with those magicians than lots people I go to church with. And to be fair, I go to church with some really interesting people. I don’t fully understand why I gravitate towards people who often don’t share my views of the world. I just know I feel like I’m becoming a better version of myself when I’m around them.
I saw The Theory of Everything, the new Stephen Hawking biopic, recently. Though I’m not sure how much we would have had to talk about, I walked out of the film convinced I would have wanted to be Stephen Hawking’s friend in school. I wouldn’t have had an agenda. I don’t think I would have understood what he was talking about most of the time. I wouldn’t have probably even known why I wanted to be friends. But I would have been drawn to the different ways he saw the universe. I would have been strangely attracted to the different beliefs he held. I wouldn’t have been afraid that his views might become mine.
Most of us surround ourselves with people like us. This makes sense. It’s comfortable. Having friends we disagree with on matters that are important to us can be challenging. It can be downright uncomfortable sometimes. However, when we come to recognize that people – all people – are worth investing in. They are worth listening to. They are worth journeying with. We become transformed into those better versions of ourselves. If you are someone who had no interest in seeing The Theory Of Everything, could I challenge you to go see it? You just might be the better for it.
The Theory of Everything is in theaters this weekend.