This is a subject that has been in the forefront of my mind a lot lately. I have gone weeks at a time deliberately avoiding facebook and other social media in order to avoid the hatefulness and close-mindedness that seem to permeate the timelines. (I guess those days are over, right?) There are so many hot topics that seem to ignite verbal nuclear warfare: gun control, politicians, abortion, gay rights, religion, and so on, and so on. I recently posted on challenging our minds, in order to keep them sharp into our old age. One of the far underused ways that I think we can do this is through true debate.
First, let me define what I mean by debate. It does not necessarily mean an all-out argument. IF all sides are being presented and respectfully considered by all parties, this is a constructive discourse. I think that mature adults should be capable of carrying out a civil debate on ANY topic, even those that we feel very strongly about. (Rant warning!) If you are completely and utterly incapable of considering an opposing viewpoint (or unwilling to do so), perhaps you need to reevaluate your emotional maturity.
Only when we can agree to peacefully disagree, without name calling, derision, or disrespect, can we make progress towards understanding, and at the same time sharpen our minds. Our primary goal should not be to verbally bludgeon someone into agreeing with our point of view, or to loudly pronounce that anyone who does not agree must be too stupid to know better. That is neither productive nor intellectually stimulating.
Why are we so unwilling to accept an opposing viewpoint as valid, even if we continue to disagree with it? Of course, those hot button topics are always the subjects we feel most strongly about; otherwise, why would we care?
But try this the next time you get caught up in one of those discussions: pause, take a deep breath, and regulate your blood pressure. Remember, the person you’re talking to is also a human being, and regardless of how intelligent you suspect they might be, consider that there is probably a reason that they believe the way they do. While you may not be able to bring them around to your point of view, and they may not be able to bring you around to theirs, maybe you could expand your mind by seeing a different side.