Friday, January 31, 2014

Being Friends with Those you Disagree

"He is a leftist" were the words of a participant at a New Year's event, at which  a famous novelist spoke.  Those who were talking stopped, and again Mr. Mo  repeated: " He is a leftist." The atmosphere in the group became strained, with members staring at each other, not knowing how to respond, aware only that the novelist was not  Mr. Mo's type of person.

The columnist in the Peace Weekly, writing about current events, mentions that he didn't know whether  the novelist was of the right or left. But when he heard the word "leftist" all the novelist's books came to mind, as well as his appearance and even his relationships with others. All conversation among the participants abruptly stopped when the charge was made, and he wonders whether the same dynamics are seen in other groups when "right wing" is thrown into the discussion.
The columnist admits to being upset by our habit of dividing ourselves into two camps, the left and the right. This has always been the  case in Korea but during the past year it has developed into an intolerable situation. The columnist knew that Mr. Mo was a man of the 'right' but always had a good feeling toward him because of his many good qualities. Now, because of Mr. Mo's use of the leftist charge, he feels only dislike for him. 
The columnist mentions the 10 resolutions that Pope Francis recommends for the New Year: Don't gossip; finish your meals; make time for others; choose the more humble purchase; meet the poor in the flesh; stop judging others; befriend those who disagree with you; make commitments, such as marriage; make it a habit to "ask the Lord;" be happy.

The columnist says that although they are difficult to carry out, he can in some fashion do most of them. Only two of them, he says, will be especially difficult for him: Not to judge others, and to be friendly with those we disagree with. And of the two, the one he can not accept in any way, he says, is the advice to befriend those we disagree with. Many persons came to mind, especially the face of Mr. Mo.
He has admired Pope Francis but on reading these two resolutions which the pope recommends he has postponed the possibility of being his disciple. At his age, he says he doesn't want to go against what he feels himself to be. And yet, he muses, the difficult things in life are often the good things we should be doing. Making friends with those we disagree with would help bring peace into our personal world, and ultimately--if followed by everyone--into the whole world. Obviously not an easy thing to do, even within one's own world, but he has decided to work at managing the transition.

Befriending those he disagrees with, he says, will be his goal beginning with the coming Lunar New Year. And even if he does not succeed, the effort will make him better, he says, and all his relationships should benefit from the effort. Happy Lunar  New Year!

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