Harmony Increases When We Are More Curious about One Another
Commentary by Sarah Henn Hayward | FāVS News
World Interfaith Harmony Week (Feb. 1-7) will soon be upon us, and oh how we need it. For all its ability to bring peace and order to our lives, religion has also been the fuel and catalyst for much fighting and strife.
Religious beliefs can cause tension not only between people groups and nations but also between friends and family members.
Two people professing the same faith may nonetheless have vastly different interpretations of their faith resulting in differing codes of behavior. Some Christians support LGBTQ+ rights to equality, for example, while others believe romantic love belongs between men and women only.
As gay children from religious families know all too well, this clash of interpretations is painful. According to research from The Trevor Project, 28% of LGBTQ+ youth have experienced homelessness in their lives, from either moving out of unsupportive households or getting evicted because of their sexual and/or gender identities.
Stepping Outside of Our Perspective
Religion has a way of coloring every aspect of our lives: regulating our vocabulary, influencing both the content and amount of our purchases and money habits and affecting our choices in books, movies, music and even friendships. For the devoted, nearly every aspect of life is viewed through the lens of belief.
It’s hard to step outside of this colored lens and remember that there are as many ways to be a human as there are humans on the planet. And there are over 8 billion humans on the planet!
We would all benefit from staying humble amid our faithfulness. It is possible to be faithful and devout while remaining aware of and sensitive to other viewpoints. This gets tricky, as many faiths emphasize sharing one’s beliefs with the intent to convert others to one’s views.
I have found that most people are not very open to changing their beliefs, especially when it comes to such deeply held values as religion. Attempts to convert only seem to work if a person is already interested and seeking.
I grew up in an evangelical Christian church and was later involved in a similar group on my college campus, both of which placed great emphasis on conversion. I’ve stood on the sidewalk with tracts, I’ve knocked door-to-door to talk about God with strangers.
As my own beliefs have shifted and evolved, I’ve let off the pressure I put on myself to save others with my words. It’s a compulsion I still struggle with and regularly work at releasing. But I noticed how resistant people are to being challenged. People don’t appreciate being handled as a project.
Our loving, nonjudgmental attitudes may go further in attracting people to our beliefs than outright witnessing attempts. If we take the pressure to convert and change others off the table, we are left with more space to celebrate and break bread in harmony together.
Then we can have open conversations, safe from ulterior motives, born of humble curiosity. We may discover that we have much more in common with each other — from folks with different views within the same faith to members of entirely different faiths — than we once assumed.
Take an Interest
I’ve started to truly “live and let live.” What another person believes is not my responsibility to influence. I am allowed to simply get to know people for the sake of getting to know them, inquiring about their lives and stories because they are interesting.
Everyone has a story to tell. The right questions delivered in a friendly, curious approach can unlock doors to unknown personal universes.
I think we would find more harmony and peace between our faiths if we could approach each other as fellow human beings, regardless of belief or non-belief, regardless of conviction or creed. In the end, we are all trying to do our best to survive this beautiful, messy thing called life as graciously as possible.
Instead of arguing and trying to prove why our ways are better than anyone else’s, let’s try taking a genuine interest in others (in person, away from the comment sections and anonymous message boards).
I think we’ll be surprised by what we discover.
The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.
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