With a strong moral opinion, I was in the minority.
During a class assignment and subsequent class discussion, I became aware of one of my personal biases surrounding a very controversial topic. Just a few weeks into the semester, we have already discussed transgender issues, abortion, LGBTQIQA+ identities, religion, end-of-life decisions, and laws, among an array of other topics. With strong beliefs about numerous controversial subjects, I often speak up about my views and my reasoning behind them.
While describing the views that I hold close to my heart, I realized that the views of my classmates are just as strong and valid as my own. Our beliefs vary across an entire spectrum, and I found myself wanting to know more about the basis of beliefs of the people around me. I know why I believe what I believe, and I could discuss any of my opinions for hours, but I have limited understanding of views outside of my own. With this recognition, I requested feedback from those who bear views different from my own so that I could begin to understand and expand my perspective.
We all have biases, morals, and values that influence how we think and act. These are what help us navigate life and make congruent decisions that lead us towards self-fulfillment and self-actualization. If we didn’t have some sort of guideline to live by, life would be utterly chaotic! However, it often seems that everybody lives by their own guidelines and life is chaotic anyway, but by attempting to grasp the various outlooks that surround us, we can step outside of ourselves and relate to our neighbors wherever they are. We do not necessarily have to be the same to be respectful. Disagreeing does not mean hating, and different does not mean bad.
As a mental health counselor, I need to be able to work with any client who walks through my door, regardless of their past experiences or any of the qualities that make them a unique individual, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability, and so on. My own personal beliefs can not impede, and I can not push my own agenda. No matter how similar to me or different from me someone is, it is my job to help them determine and achieve their goals.
To be completely honest, it has been difficult for me, as a person of faith, to consider how I will be able to approach clients who act contradictory to beliefs that I uphold. I have struggled with the idea that I may play a role in actions that go against what my faith teaches. I find it tough to remove my own biases from situations that affect my moral compass.
In saying that, as a Christian, I know that I am called to love my brothers and sisters. No matter what.
When Jesus said in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment: love one another,” He meant it. He didn’t follow up by saying, “love one another, but only the people who agree with you,” or “love one another, except if they do something you don’t like.” Jesus calls us to really, truly LOVE each other. No matter what.
Authentic love requires us to embrace each other’s uniqueness, form relationships, and challenge each other to grow. We desire more than mediocrity, and support our fellow humans in finding ways to thrive in their lives.
So often I try to make my own life about me. I want to focus on my opinions, my desires, and my endeavors. But when I sit in a session with a client, it’s not about me. When I answer a phone call from a friend who needs someone to talk to, it’s not about me. When I pray with someone for their intentions, it’s not about me.
When we can sit with another human, really listen to them, validate their experience, and engage in discussion, we love them. Not with a fake or fleeting love, but a love that says, “I am here for you.”
We are not better than our brothers and sisters who make different decisions than us, and we are not superior for upholding or not upholding personal moral values. We are called to love people who are different than us, people who disagree with us, and people who make different choices than us. In the grand scheme of things, we are more similar than we are different.
In Joy, Monica
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.