You know what is wrong with us? We’ve all got opinions about everything, and we all think our opinions are the right ones. There are so many issues up for debate in the world today that I am really becoming quite exhausted just trying to figure out what the heck is the right thing to do about every.little.thing. How’s a girl supposed to make a decision about something even as simple as milk? Skim. 2%. Whole. Organic. Raw. Soy. Almond. Not to mention cow’s vs. goat’s. And boy, does the world have opinions about MILK! Here are a few things that I’ve heard or read in the last 6 months: “Skim milk is overly processed and very unhealthy” “Humans should not drink milk from animals, soy or almond milk is best” “Consuming raw milk can lead to bacterial infection” “Goat’s milk is easiest to digest” “I won’t drink milk unless it’s fat free” “Raw milk is the only real milk” “Organic milk is even worse for you because it’s ultra-pasteurized”. Milk is a ridiculous example, I know, but even this can divide us…or make us think we’re better than someone else because we’ve been enlightened on the subject. Plus, it’s much less likely to commence a bloodbath than something more obviously controversial like, say, vaccines or healthcare.
We like to draw lines in the sand, don’t we? Then we unwittingly judge our friends who don’t think just like us, usually while masking our true feelings with a polite smile and nod. For me, this started at an early age. Absolute Truth was a theme in my teenage years: things ARE indeed black and white, we cannot just go around doing we see fit in our own eyes; there is a clear right and wrong, end of discussion. When I made my way to University, this trend of sharply drawn lines continued. Things can be figured out. Everything can fit into a neat little box with a pretty bow on top. We intellectuals can find the right answer; it’s not that hard.
Well, it’s not that hard when your experience is limited to people who look, act, smell and think like you do, but what happens after the shelter of youth? What happens when we enter the real world and meet real people who are smart and sensible and also have strong, valid opinions? Historically, my educational experience tells me that when I engage in a discussion with someone with a differing viewpoint, I am in the right and they are in the wrong. End of story. I’ve been trained by parents and pastors and professors; I know the difference between right and wrong, so if you’re opinion is different from mine, sorry, you’re wrong.
This is troubling, don’t you agree? Because in real life, not many things are black and white. (GASP! Can you even believe I said that?? I can’t.) Take milk, for example. Now, what is the Absolute Truth about milk? I know this is crazy, but I am not kidding you when I say that I have agonized over our family’s choice of milk. I have lost sleep over it. As someone who has been conditioned from birth to believe there is Absolute Truth to be obtained, I want to obtain this truth about milk, darn it. AND vaccines (yes, I said it, but let’s not discuss it!). And disciplining children. And environmental stewardship. And Oreo’s…I mean, really, how can something so delicious be bad? And if Jesus still actively heals today. And if it’s ok that I watch Grey’s Anatomy. And if God is a God of justice (Old Testament) or of peace (New Testament).
Does an Absolute Truth even exist? I would say…yes. There are certain (Biblical) Truths that are clear and unarguable and I would die before I renounced them. BUT two educated people can look at the same subject, such as daycare or homeschooling or politics, and come out on completely different sides. Shockingly, I am beginning to believe that this is ok.
Stop. Wait. Is it ok? Is it really ok if you and I think differently on an issue? Is it wrong or could it be all a part of some Master Plan? Can we go to the same church if we have conflicting opinions about music or modesty or Millennials? Can we still be friends, I mean really friends, if we disagree on topics like cursing or sex or money, even if we are convinced our point of view is the correct one? Yes and Yes! But unfortunately, we are not usually very generous people.
Nothing has exposed my lack of generosity more than becoming a mother. I spent my first couple of years as a mother judging women who did not choose to birth like me, nurse like me, vaccinate like me, stay at home like me, and discipline like me. It’s embarrassing to admit it, really, but I was not a very generous person. Slowly, I began to realize that if I was genuinely going to love my friends and family, I needed to start listening to their hearts, respecting their choices and recognizing that they, too, are educated adults who can make good decisions for themselves and their families.
Ever meet someone and think, “This is going to be a beautiful friendship, I should just go out and buy the BFF necklaces now!” That’s how I felt about Elissa after our first cup of coffee together. But then…she mentioned she was a vegan. My eyes immediately darted to my kitchen and I was like, “Oh crap, why doesn’t my pantry have doors? She can see everything we eat, this is going to be a very short friendship!” Ha! Each cup of coffee that she and I shared, or crazy playtime we endured with our kids, drew us closer yet exposed our differences even more prominently. Though our souls connect on many topics, our worldviews are different. And yet, we’ve been able to maintain a really easy and fun bond, and I’m not talking the smile-and-nod-and-quick-change-the-subject-before-this-gets-awkward kind of friendship. No, this girl loves to talk in-depth about the parts of our lives that are most opposite. She asks frank, unassuming questions and is genuinely interested in and open to my answers. She is truly generous. Though she may not be persuaded to think exactly like me, I now sheepishly wonder: is that my goal in relationships? Have I been so conditioned by the Truth Police that I believe it’s my job to get everyone on my side of a given issue? And besides, am I even right about everything? Politics? Food? Am I?
The Absolute Truth about our preferences and personal convictions is that we must steward our zeal graciously: researching and making conscious, educated decisions for ourselves and our families, and talking to friends about our passions without imposing absolute standards on them or judging them when they make decisions that are contrary to our personal position. Forgive me for sounding like a relativist, but there are some things that are good for you, and that’s (sincerely) great, but they’re just not good for me. Man, that was hard to type. (Grandma, if you’re reading this, don’t fret; I still love Jesus). We are not the same, you and I. Our education, experience, gifts and talents, personalities and even convictions are different, and I am beginning to think that this is by Design. Perhaps this is what God had in mind all along: people who look differently, think differently and are enthusiastic about different things, all reflecting unique aspects of His beautiful character and His many passions in a an intricate mosaic. This is how a liberal vegan and conservative carnivore can enjoy conversations over <fair trade> coffee, one mug sweetened with dairy milk and the other with coconut milk. Milk – not such a ridiculous example after all.