Monday, July 2, 2018

Is This Really Worth Losing Friends Over? Yes, Absolutely.

When is it “worth it” to lose a friend over “politics?” This is a question that’s arisen, again and again, since Trump was elected. It’s a question that many of us—especially those of us in white skin—haven't really had to confront until recently (a privilege and a blInd spot unto itself).

This is by no means an original thought, of course. The strain and divisions in the American zeitgeist under Trump’s “leadership” have been the subject of one take after the other, with each day seemingly bringing a new test to the limits of our collective empathy and civic conscience.

On a microcosmic level, these divisions are playing out in our most intimate relationships. One argument goes that it’s just politics, and a stupid thing to feud about. The other argument, and the one I endorse, is that this is more than “politics,” or at least it’s more than “politics” as many of us have complacently defined it for ourselves until now.

This time is a test of character and values, and if character and values do not form the basis of human relationships, what does?

Everyone has a different definition of what makes a good friend, but there are some common qualities most of us can agree on: true friends love and support you for who you are; they listen with empathy; they “hold space” for you; they are dependable; they do not betray you; they are loyal and trustworthy; they don’t judge you; they share your values; they give and accept tough love. 

In short, friends have character.

Do not forget: the moment we are in is not a political moment but a test of character. It’s a rare moment in which the true nature of people’s characters is revealed. Are we lizard-brained animals who will strive at all costs to hoard resources and justify our dominance over each other? Or are we able to appeal to and meet the demands of our better natures, finding the empathy needed to actively defend our ideals when called upon to do so? And if we have people in our lives who insist on regressing to the former while we want to do the latter, is it okay to let those relationships go?

In my opinion, it is.

If your friends don’t understand why you are afraid; if they cannot listen without judgment; if they cannot cultivate empathy for you as a woman, a person of color, an immigrant, an LGBTQ person; if they refuse to listen and learn; if they betray you by voting against your life and liberty (yes, that is a betrayal); if they dismiss your concerns as petty when none of those concerns affect them personally; if they cannot be depended on to fight for your autonomy and needs when needed, then how are they a friend? How are they worth it?

The answer is they’re not. Let them go.

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