I think people need to build more bridges between their beliefs and those of others. To see similarities and merits rather than differences and faults. People need to be willing to entertain other beliefs, to visit other ways of thinking. See their values, see their merits, see WHY people believe in that way.
Many believe in the power of travel to open people’s minds and make them better, more rounded people. Travel helps us understand different perspectives and cultures. We can live in and love one place above all others, but still appreciate and understand other places.
I think that people should treat each other’s beliefs like we treat travel. Too often people choose only to entertain as true the things which they believe to be true. They live in one way of thinking their whole lives. They refuse to leave their ‘country’ of thought. People build walls between what they believe and everything else. On their side is ‘right’ and everything else is ‘wrong’.
Walls of Fear
Belief is something that is very easy to get defensive about. When we talk with someone who disagrees with us, we tend to feel like either we need to convince them, or like they are trying to convince us. It feels like a contest or war that requires a winner. It is easy to feel like our beliefs are being attacked. So we build walls around our beliefs to defend them.
It is difficult to convince people that there is no danger in entertaining other people’s beliefs. As an outsider we see all the things ‘wrong’ with the way someone believes, and we fear that by entertaining those beliefs we will become a worse person. Or we will encourage those ‘bad’ beliefs in others.
However, the real fear that prevents bridges and creates walls is not the beliefs themselves. The only reason to fear entertaining someone else’s beliefs is because you are afraid you will be convinced. You are afraid you won’t have the strength or conviction to return to your own beliefs after seeing the merits of a different way of thinking. To this I say, if you don’t have enough conviction in your beliefs to return to them, why do you hold them at all?
How to Build Bridges
Building bridges is not just about being accepting. To build bridges one must try to understand what life is like for someone with other beliefs.
When discussing beliefs, many people ask questions that back the other person into a corner. Questions that have difficult answers, or that will force the person to confront flaws or contradictions in their beliefs. These are not questions that build bridges. They are questions designed to give more value and weight to your own set of beliefs.
Instead of asking these types of confrontational questions, pretend you are a child learning about the person’s beliefs. Ask real basic fundamental questions that you have genuine curiosity about. Build on your understanding of their beliefs, instead of trying to tear their beliefs down. Try to see the world from their point of view.
It may seem contradictory, but this sort of building, changing your own approach to other people’s beliefs, is a much better way of convincing people to change theirs.
When you confront someone, attacking their beliefs will only serve to entrench them more. They will build walls to protect themselves from you, and be even less likely of being convinced.
Instead, build a bridge. Show genuine interest in joining them on their side. They will be more likely to open up if they do not feel threatened by inviting you in. If you are able to build a bridge of understanding, it will be easier to bring them to your side to visit as well. Let them show you and convince you of the merits of their beliefs, they will be more likely to let you do the same.