Like many people this election season, I had some really passionate beliefs about who should win the American presidency.
And, yes, I’m about to be intentionally vague about who I voted for because A) in our country the church lives out a call to be a fair and impartial place where people can prayerfully and thoughtfully discern God’s will for their civic lives without political pressure, but also because B) the lessons I’ve learned this election season supersede my political choices.
Like many people, I was sure my vote was “right.” I knew had chosen the “right” candidate who stood for the “right” issues. But the millions of other people who voted for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the other candidates on the ballot also felt their votes and their candidates were “right.”
So here are three things this election has taught me:
People are complicated: Sometimes it’s easy for me to dismiss people who disagree with me. The people I surround myself with tend to see the world the same way I do, and this makes it easy for me to believe I’m right and everyone else is wrong.
This election has taught me that seeing people this way hurts us all. Every individual is shaped by their circumstances, their families, their communities and their experiences in the same ways I have been shaped by mine.
Telling myself someone who disagrees with me is “wrong” or – worse – “dumb” does none of us any good. Dismissing each other leaves no room for us to come together, to treat each other with love and respect.
Conversations matter: I’ve never been someone who likes to disagree with others. I avoid conflict. Even cordial, thoughtful disagreements are difficult for me.
But leading up to this election, for the first time I pushed myself to get out of my bubble. I learned to express my opinion thoughtfully and patiently. I learned to hear what others were saying. I learned that this is the only way we have any hope of truly understanding how we can make the world a better place for everyone. I should have been doing this all along.
We can’t stop working for good: Elections are important. But what is more important is the way we treat one another. As Christians, we know Jesus has called us to care for others always, to always stand up for those in need.
Now that the election is over, I will not stop listening. In fact, after this contentious election, I will listen more. I will step out of my comfort zone more.
I will start living like every year is an election year, like change is always possible, like every moment is an opportunity to change minds and change hearts.