Rack is the Co-Founder of Beyond Civility and the retired Chief Circuit Mediator at the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
What could be more enjoyable than a stimulating evening of meaningful conversation with good friends…friends who think as you do, that is.
I recently attended a dinner party with a congenial group of mostly intellectual liberals following a play that presented complex tension between an Evangelical Christian woman seeking custody of an infant child and a presumably non-believing social worker whose job it was to place the child. The social worker questioned the judgment of the Christian for her irrational belief in the Rapture, and the Christian challenged the social worker for her anti-Christian bias.
Thinking I knew that a couple in the group were practicing Catholics, I worried throughout the conversation that it would drift into unguarded criticism of the Christian woman’s beliefs as laughable, that the tone would become insensitive and disrespectful, everyone assuming that everyone else in the group felt the same way. My concern for the couple’s feelings led me to comment on the fairness of the play’s presentation of both points of view, and to avoid saying anything that might trigger even momentary thoughtless stereotyping or disrespect for the Christian character.
We all have attitudes and opinions, some well considered, some maybe not so much. When expressed among like-minded friends, they bring us affirmation and comfort. But when voiced without scrutiny or caution, they can function like implicit biases, causing pain and division.
We’ll never censor all our opinions before expressing them. But imagining there’s someone in the room who holds the opposite view, a friend whose feelings we care about, might help.