A week or so before my cousin, Mike, and I held another of our conversations, I learned from his sister that he had been to a potential super-spreader event. She reamed him out for not being more careful.
I took a different approach. I told him how much he means to me … how I’m closer to him than any other member of the family … even closer that I was to my brother. “If you were to die, it would be a huge loss for me.”
We talked for another 45 minutes just catching up. It was an easy, loving conversation.
Speaking from experience tends to connect us.
And then politics came up. This Zoom conversation occurred shortly after the election. He told me about another family member who voted differently than we did because of the issue of abortion.
Speaking our beliefs tends to divide us.
I asked, “Is he willing to help pay the expenses of families who can’t afford more children but are forced to have them?”
Mike’s whole demeanor changed. A harshness entered as he voiced his “black and white” viewpoint about parents who can’t afford children.
My heart sank and I looked down. Mike noticed.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
At first I just nodded and said, “Yea, I’m okay.”
“You’re looking down.”
Honesty gushed forth. “I just feel so sad. A harshness entered your voice that doesn’t fit with the Jesus and God I know … that doesn’t fit with the goodness of your heart. I just feel so sad,” I cried out.
I went on to explain that I don’t see things in “black and white.” For me, things are a lot more complex.
I recounted the story of a woman experiencing guilt after an abortion and how I ministered to her. (Pg. 77-80 in A Long Awakening to Grace). I relayed my concern that it is the woman who most often carries the load while the man gets off scot free … as two men did in that woman’s life.
I added, “I still carry that woman in my heart and often wonder how life turned out for her.”
I told him stories from my own life where some might judge me but that I didn’t think God would. I conveyed what I had learned from those events. I spoke about the compassionate God of my experience.
“This is why I don’t think we should talk about beliefs,” I added.
He said softly, “How can we really know each other if we don’t? I wish I could have these kind of conversations with (a family member who judges him as opinionated).”
I said, “I know you have a good heart, Mike.”
He added, “And I know you have a good heart, too.”
We ended our conversation reaffirming our love for each other.
Mike and I have spoken only briefly since then and we didn’t touch on this conversation. We stayed safely in the “small talk” arena. I had been pondering how to move forward and needed more time to discern the best approach.
I kept thinking about something I’ve heard Oprah say often … something I experienced with my clients when I served as a relationship therapist … something I recognize within myself.
I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. … every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’ ~Oprah Winfrey
What stayed present for me after my conversation with Mike was “How can we really know each other … ?” and “I wish I could have these kind of conversations ….”
I think the next time we talk, curiosity will be the bridge. I truly want to know what those statements mean for him.
I suspect we will find common ground there … in our desire to genuinely see and hear each other … under our beliefs … at the level of meaning … true intimacy.
Stay tuned …