You might not know it by looking at me, but I used to be really into politics.
I grew up in a household where politics were a constant. My dad was always watching the news, giving his own commentary on the events of the day. I remember when I was four years old and would run into my dad’s room and jump on him to wake up him, only to end up lying in bed listening to Rush Limbaugh. I was raised to be interested in politics.
So when Twitter became a thing, and political commentators and activists took to it to make their points known, so did I. I started a blog and started listening to radio shows online. I began to show up to meetings in my area and went to protests. I made signs, showed up, and walked around to try and make a point. I put in a lot of time and effort to educate myself on the issues, and did my best not to feel hurt when people hurled insults at me.
I met some amazing people who are still my friends to this day and are people I consider to be family. I got to experience a lot of cool things (including meeting a US Congressman). All in all, I don’t regret the time spent engaging in politics because it gave me a lot of experience and a lot of perspective.
However, there came a point where I just stopped. Somewhere along the way I realized that all of the energy I was putting into political dialogue wasn’t doing any good. Instead, it was doing a lot of harm in my everyday relationships. At some point I had begun to put “being right” over being in relationship and noticed some people had backed away from our friendship. When I saw that a couple people I’d been trying to reach out to and establish a relationship with had unfriended me on Facebook and didn’t seem interested in engaging with me anymore, I knew I’d stepped over a line.
That began the slow process of learning that relationships come first, even when I disagree with someone.
Today, I still engage in political discourse when it is appropriate. My friends and I will get into lively discussions about what we think and why we think it, but we do it in such a way that relationship comes first. If someone feels attacked we will stop and move on to something else. We give up the right to be right, for the sake of maintaining a friendship.
This makes the most sense to me because thus far I’ve come to one conclusion about politics: Everyone is wrong and no one wins. Why? Because in American politics it is about crushing your opponent, not working to understand them. It is about opinions, not facts. Both sides, all sides, only care about one thing and unfortunately that thing is not what they should be caring about which is people. We sacrifice relationship, we sacrifice loving our neighbor, because we have an opinion that we think is right and we refuse to back down from it. Instead of changing the world we live in and changing lives, we hurt and alienate people.
So put relationship first. That’s how we’ll change the world.