There was a moment on my journey when I felt and thought and chose very differently than those around me. Those feelings and thoughts and choices were far outside of the earlier pages of my journey and that moment became a very dark place through which I traveled almost wholly unaccompanied. As dawn broke through that moment and I was able to exhale, I clung to what I learned in the dark place. Those lessons have shaped the way I now treat others with kindness in the midst of disagreements.
First, breathe. Words have a powerful and long-lasting way of connecting and separating us from others. I began to know almost instantly the type of response I would receive based on the first moment after I shared my struggle with someone along my journey. When I first heard a deep breath, I knew what came next would be kindness in action. That pause of breath gave way to a beautiful moment; one in which loneliness was crushed and walls of separation were demolished. What broke way after that breath was not a changing of opinions, but a knowledge that I wouldn’t be quite so alone in the very next moment of my journey. We are each a uniquely different piece of the world’s puzzle and an intricate piece of the whole. The goal is not to all become an identical puzzle piece, but rather to breathe in the beauty of each unique piece that surrounds us.
Different shoes. “I’ve never walked a mile in your shoes,” she whispered. That precious whisper was uttered by a saintly woman whose belief system should have meant she would shun me completely. I expected anything but compassion as I shared my dark moment with her; instead, her words became a balm to my weary soul. She passed no judgment and shared no advice. She simply allowed me to think and feel and choose as I would, respecting my journey as far different than her own. Remember always that not one of us walks the same path; if you were able to walk in another pair of shoes for even a mile, your outlook may be different.
Love, anyway. The heart of the disagreement isn’t everything. Although I found myself in a dark place of deep struggle, I yearned for a connection with another person on anything but the obvious topic at hand. I became so hungry for connection that I found myself in conversation with random strangers about a new restaurant, the changing of the seasons, and even the local football team. If the topic at hand proves too much to tackle, connect on another instead. That one subject is not the basis on which one should be wholly judged; find the beauty of connection through another topic instead.
In this moment, I find myself confronted with many whose opinions are far different than mine. Their feelings and thoughts and choices are so greatly opposed to mine and it becomes easy to feel alone in a dark place all over again. But this is simply a false view of the world around me. Instead, I must hold on to the truths I have learned.
It takes many unique and beautiful pieces of a puzzle to complete the whole of the world that encompasses us. Your piece of the puzzle is different from mine, but both are necessary to the whole.
Your shoes have seen a far different journey through the years than the pair next to yours; choose to respect the shoes of others.
And, when all else fails, switch topics. Connect on a different level.
Choose kindness in disagreement.
Post & Artwork by Megan Ann Murphy
Megan is a mentor and advocate for military veterans and caregivers struggling with life after combat injury. She writes often about her family’s personal experiences after combat, parenting special needs children, and finding the good in the ever-present chaos. Her goal through mentoring, advocating, and writing is simply to let others know they are not alone on their journey.