There’s No Changing Their Minds

I have an online friend I met probably 15 years ago on a site that offered self-designated “experts” an opportunity to answer questions posted by readers. I signed up as an “expert” in more than 20 categories ranging from spirituality to divorce to GLBT relationships to death and dying. (The site offered hundreds of categories on everything from art to motorcycle repair to accounting. If you had a question, there was most likely a category for it to be asked.) Over the course of approximately 2 1/2 years while this site was in existence, this one questioner and I developed an online friendship that continued after the site closed down and we still interact on at least a weekly basis through other online venues. To say that this friend and I have opposite views on how to solve many of the issues challenging the world today would be an understatement.

To my friend, everything is a competition with a clear winner and a clear loser. And if you’re not the winner, you’re not trying hard enough. If you are the winner and you won “fair and square” (although what’s “fair and square” is a matter of debate), then you deserve everything you “won” and you’re under no obligation to share it with anyone else, no matter how badly someone else may need it. “Winners” are hard-working, reliable, dependable, employed, self-reliant; “losers” are unemployed, those on welfare or other public assistance (which indicates they are lazy, not resourceful (“where there’s a will there’s a way!”), slackers and freeloaders), needy and unreliable (if you can’t even support yourself, how can others (like family) rely on you to support them?). To my friend, there is this black and white world where you are one or the other: there is no middle ground. There are no other options. There is no compromise. If it’s mine, it’s mine and you have no right to try to take it from me or even to ask me to give it to you. If I choose to give it to you, then I am proving I am indeed a winner because I am willing to help the losers.

For 15 years, this friend and I have been debating social issues. We have, at the very least, demonstrated that it is possible for those on the polar opposite sides to have a civilized discussion about the issues, even if we never reach any sort of agreement on how to resolve those issues.  But neither of us has had the least bit of success in “changing” the other’s mind about how to resolve the plethora of problems facing humanity today. Then one day I had an “Aha!” moment wherein  I realized that while our solutions may be totally opposite, our goals are the same. We both want a world in which each individual is able to live according to the beliefs s/he holds dear without undue interference from the “outside” world.

In the CwG material, God tells us that all the problems in the world stem from the belief that we are separate from God and from each other. From this belief of separation, all the other illusions spring forth: that God requires something of us, that there is not enough for everyone and therefore we must compete with each other, even justifying killing each other to get what we need, that some of us are better than others because we are following the “right” path according to “God’s word”, etc. God also says that no matter what policies we change, no matter how we do things differently, nothing in our world is going to become what we say we want until we change one very basic thing: our beliefs about God and how we “relate” to God.

So after 15 years, I am done debating policy and procedure with my friend. It’s pointless because we humans, when challenged about the things we believe, tend to “dig in” and believe even harder, especially when someone points to factual evidence that counters what we believe. (There is actually a name for this: it’s called the “backfire effect”.) The more I try to show my friend that the way s/he wants to do things, the way that we’ve been doing it since the mid-80’s, is not working, the more s/he believes that the way we’ve been doing it just hasn’t been given a long enough chance to work!

But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. Not at all. Just a change in strategies. The focus has to be on our Oneness. Those seeds have to be planted over and over and over again. Every response to those who still live in the fear that is virtually automatically generated by a “separatist” philosophy will contain the seeds of Oneness. Those seeds are plenty and are found throughout most sacred texts buried among the atrocities they ascribe to the Divine. We must dig them up from this fearful earth they have been planted in for the last two millenia and replant them, allowing them to bloom when planted in the field of Love. We may  not be able to change their minds, but we may be able “change” their hearts.

Please Note: The mission of The Global Conversation website is to generate an ongoing sharing of thoughts, ideas, and opinions at this internet location in an interchange that we hope will produce an ongoing and expanding conversation ultimately generating wider benefit for our world. For this reason, links that draw people away from this site will be removed from our Comments Section, a process which may delay publication of your post. If you wish to include in your Comment the point of view of someone other than yourself, please feel free to report those views in full (and even reprint them) here.
Click here to acknowledge and remove this note: