Religion taught me it was most important to be in community with like-minded "believers". It was safe. It was a way to "keep the faith". It was conformity - not just fitting in, but belonging. It was being good, being right.
And those who did not agree with me were my persecutors.
I've changed my mind about disagreements.
Being one voice in a groupthink environment encouraged me not to speak up. Every thought or idea or question I had was responded to through a lens of religion - of wrong and right, bad and good. Because I was a Christian, it was expected I act, and react, in certain ways. While religion gave me an outline as to what was acceptable, it did not prepare me for a world of disagreements.
But I was never good at people-pleasing. I despised the way I'd make myself small to accommodate others. So I started using my voice.
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now, I don't seek out agreeable relationships. I simply seek relationship. Sure, I enjoy when someone understands where I'm coming from and can relate to my experiences because they have their own that parallels mine, but I'm more about inclusivism, not exclusivity. I welcome a healthy, respectful disagreement. Some of my closest friends, even my family, don't agree with my beliefs and how I choose to interact with them. And it's perfectly okay.
Disagreement - like doubt and fear - teaches me more about myself than someone else. Disagreeing is an active practice of believing; it reminds me what I think, what I feel, and gives me insight into who I am and who I want to be. Disagreement doesn't shut me down or send me into a spiral of worry, and it doesn't mean I'm being persecuted for what I choose to believe. I'm okay if we disagree, we can still hang out. We can be lifelong friends, even.
Surrounding myself with only those who agree with me would be my end. I wouldn't learn new information or different perspectives. My ability to show compassion and empathy would wilt. I'd stop being challenged in my thinking. I'd stop opening myself to experience new things. I'd stop growing.
"Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress."
Let's disagree, and then enjoy a cup of coffee together.