By Elana B
One afternoon, I found myself seated at a table with nine individuals I had never met. It was part of my job as a convention management team member to have lunch with representatives from a variety of states and territories, and lay the groundwork for a major, week-long political convention in New York City. The topic of my religion came up–no one at the table knew that I was a member of my particular church. Maybe everyone assumed that no one attending the luncheon would be so. I listened quietly while some disparaging comments were made and noticed some of my table mates nodding their heads in agreement, until the individual speaking finished, then I introduced myself as a member of my church, and the table grew silent. I talked about the importance my religion placed on being generous in spirit, living Gospel principles, being good examples and good citizens and allowing others to express and act upon their principles, beliefs and standards, emphasizing the importance of agency and choice and its relevance to the freedoms we have in our country, especially freedom of speech and freedom of religion. At first, it was daunting, and I felt very alone. But I was not, because I knew what I believed. I also knew I didn’t have to criticize what had been said, that I could express the courage of my convictions without offending or contending with anyone. The luncheon ended with another recipe on the menu–one for respect.
When the world opposes or ridicules what I believe, how do I hold my head up, avoid fear as a motivator, keep my standards and respond? How do I avoid contention or taking the position, “I’m right and you’re wrong”? How do I do what Jesus would do or even know what He wants me to do?
Today it seems we can either be popular or be an example–a choice must be made, and it’s getting harder to make it without incurring someone’s wrath. Popular sentiment says you can’t stand with one foot planted in one philosophy and the other planted in an opposing one without the risk of being torn in two. When we try to embrace what the world offers, preaches, sets as standards, we often feel that we have to abridge or compromise what we believe is appropriate. Too often anyone in opposition to someone or some group is deemed an enemy, even if he or she is not seeking to usurp freedom of choice. Unfortunately, the we-agree-to-disagree approach is fast becoming a point of disagreement itself, where anger and contention canker dialogue and relationships, sides are taken and barriers go up.
Respect is an essential ingredient in a civilized world. Each person has an opportunity to maintain his or her standards and beliefs within the parameters set by a governing society at large. The Golden Rule and “turning the other cheek” are its mission statements and core values. If we embody the idea of treating others the way we want to be treated–with respect for our differences and choices, and we do not take or give offense, we will have satisfying lives of trust, peace, and love. There are very few “life or death” choices for most of us. But there are many that are “live and let live”.
My favorite color is red. I think that everything red is wonderful. I wear it, decorate my home with it, drive a car that color, even dye my hair to match, but just because I love red, doesn’t mean I think that anyone who doesn’t love red is my enemy, critical of my choices, or that someone who loves blue should be ostracized, deemed “ridiculous”, and tagged with a hateful label. Someone’s decision not to choose red is not a reason for me to try to eliminate all things “blue” in the world.
We need respect–defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone, esteem for a person’s sense of worth, proper acceptance, courtesy, acknowledgment of another, in the company of grace–defined as a simple elegance or refinement of movement and thought, a pleasant way of behaving politely in social situations.
So how do I stand up for my beliefs? With grace and respect for the beliefs of others, with kindness, compassion, charity, humility and a sense of humor, even if I find myself wearing red in a sea of blue.