A few months ago I came across a Carolyn Hax advice column in the Washington Post. The question was what to do about longtime friends who are suddenly more secure in voicing their beliefs and values that turn out to go against the core of who you are and what you believe. Do you stick with those friends or drop them? Are you being intolerant if you drop them?
Carolyn’s response struck me dumb and immediately (immediately) became the guiding voice in my head when it comes to navigating the same murky waters in my own life.
First, read her full response online: https://tinyurl.com/CarolynHax. It’s really good and I’m not going to copy, word-for-word, what she wrote. But here’s the part that completely changed my mindset:
Do not drop these friends.
If anyone drops anyone, let them drop you for being their loving, gracious, kind, calm, patient, relentless and absolutely fierce reminder that treating one variety of person as better or worse than others by accident of birth is morally indefensible.
“That’s a stereotype, and unfair.”
“I find that offensive.”
“These are human beings you’re talking about.”
“Would you say that to a [demographic adjective here] person’s face?”
Do you get it? It struck me as both so simple and so profound. Make them leave you first. Let them decide whether the friendship continues or not. And before you argue that this approach gives them the power, let me correct you. You are coming from a position of power because you aren’t afraid to show who you are. If they don’t like it, they are free to leave, Two quick caveats:
1. The power I’m referring to isn’t that of domination over someone else. It’s the quiet, calm, unshakable power that comes when you know who you are and what you stand for and also know that no matter the outcome you will be ok.
2. Ending friendships, no matter who ends them, is shitty. I’m not minimizing this and I’m not being cavalier about the very real pain.
You may have noticed I’ve become more vocal online about my beliefs and values. I’ve always been pretty vocal but not about important things like race and religion and politics. The election changed that for me when I saw the depth of hate and bigotry that has lived below the surface for decades in this country. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to simply not be racist or not against immigration. It became clear to me that being passive about issues I believe in is the same as saying nothing. And so I am learning to be more vocal and to have fair and reasonable debates with folks who think differently than me. I won’t always get it right but I promise to be as kind and respectful and patient as I know how to be and to apologize when I’m not.
Now go. Leave me first –