Updated: Feb 15, 2022
I love my family; but I feel hurt by their beliefs. So what do I do? Do I silence myself around them and ignore their remarks? Or do I share honestly about how I think their beliefs are harmful?
It seems that everyone I know these days can relate to this complex feeling and question, "How do I be in relationship with someone who has a different worldview than me?" But it's not as simple as having trouble relating to someone who you disagree with. Instead, something seems different these days.
I remember being in elementary school during election season in the United States. I was listening to my fellow 5th graders arguing with each other about who was going to win--the Republicans or Democrats. In actuality, I had no clue what I was talking about, but I just knew that my family was in the right. These heated elementary debates had moments of discomfort, even anger with each other, but when the election was over, we didn't think about it anymore and continued playing with each other at recess. As I grew older, I started to differentiate myself from my family (including political beliefs). There were some heated conversations but at the end of the day, they were still my family; and I didn't think any different of them.
However, as the symbiosis of social media and politics intertwined themselves further with each other; I noticed something change in me when thinking about my differences with my families worldview. It was no longer 'just a disagreement' with them, instead it seemed like there was more at stake. I could no longer just hear someone's worldview without feeling an amplified awareness of what I believed to be it's consequence. For example, there are people close to me who have a more traditional view of marriage. For me, I felt that I couldn't leave it at just disagreeing with them. Instead, I believed that their worldview was unethical--even dangerous--and directly contributed to the mass suicidality within the LGBTQ+ community.
...[Due to social media] it seems like there is more at stake, due to a heightened awareness of the perceived consequences of someone's beliefs/worldview.
We would frequently engage in fierce debate over the issue and they would not budge on their beliefs. I was left in a chronic state of total discouragement and exhaustion. But this was also a relationship that I valued and didn't want to just give up. My values felt like they were constantly competing with each other. "How can they believe that? What does this mean for our relationship? I can't just eat dinner with them, pretending like everything is okay! But also, I can't just stop talking to them right? Will the entire base of our future relationship just be about trying to change their worldviews and beliefs?"
With all of these complicated questions and competing feelings, how do we determine how to move forward with honoring our values without completely negating our relationships? If you believe that there is room and potential for mutually respectful conversation, I would encourage you to continue the conversation. However, for many people, this means that we might have to do something difficult: set boundaries with our loved ones.
3 Elements of Healthy Boundaries (according to Existential Analysis)
In considering this idea, we must first ask ourselves a simple, yet tremendous question: "I am myself, but am I allowed to be myself? Who am I? And how can I be me while in relationship with you?"
In relating to someone who might share an offensive remark/belief about the world, we must attempt to move beyond the conceptual and into the personal. "Why am I personally offended here? What values of mine are being threatened? Is it my relationship with the person? Is it my feeling of safety or something else? Do I want to keep this relationship?" In asking these questions, we gain personal insight and access to understanding who we are and what is essential for us in relationship with others.
We set boundaries with those who we are in relationship with in order to make sure we do not lose ourselves. But this can be a difficult and scary task. In relating to someone who has an offensive belief system or worldview, it is easy to succumb to silence in order to avoid the discomfort of the offensive belief. When this happens, we lose/silence a part of ourselves (which often leads to a loss of self-worth).
In setting boundaries with our loved ones, we recognize that:
There is an element in the relationship (offensive remarks) which is leading to a loss of self-worth.
In order to maintain the relationship without ignoring one's values, a protective distance must be placed in between the relationship.
When we do this effectively in relationship, we are able to offer and receive three important elements which support the formation of self-worth: Attention, Justice, and Appreciation.
In receiving attention from the other, the other becomes aware of you and what is your own. This attention is beyond just noticing you, but contains an intentional concern for who and how you are. Similarly, in giving attention to the other, I give enough distance to notice them and their boundaries. This attention is the foundation of giving respect, to give room for what is one’s own and for one’s boundaries, mine and the other’s, respectively; and to maintain a distance in order not to injure it.
In receiving justice from the other, I am not only seen by the other, but I am taken seriously. I am seen in my essence and value. Similarly, in doing justice to the other, I recognize the other person's right to: being in the world; their needs, wishes, and feelings; their decisions, beliefs, positions, and the way they are.
Finally, in receiving appreciation, the other person gives an explicitly/implicitly personal evaluation of me; and has the feeling that I am valuable. We learn not only what they see in us, but also how it is for them to be with us--how I affect them as a person. They take a position towards me as a person. This also includes seeing critically, seeing what they don't appreciate/value. However, this expression of criticism is only constructive if there is an appreciation for the person.
Do you have any feedback/questions on this article? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to continue learning with you :)