If I asked you to take a pencil and break it, you would probably have very little trouble doing so. (Put the pencil down. This is all hypothetical.)
Now, if I asked you to take 20 pencils and bundle them together with twine tied tightly and then asked you to break the whole lot of them. It is doubtful you could.
This analogy is useful when considering the importance of having associations and friends who share your values. Simply put, there is strength in numbers. This is also a valuable lesson to teach our children.
We shouldn't shun or ridicule others because they don't share our beliefs. In fact, it's really important to love everyone and learn as much as we can about them. Mutual respect, patience and tolerance are the credo of good people of faith. We must love one another as Jesus taught.
Use the following tips when discussing beliefs with friends of different faiths:
When you meet someone with a different belief system, ask them about it. Tell them what your beliefs are regarding something and then ask what they believe.
Keep an open mind
If you are firm in your foundation, discussing differences won't alter your beliefs, but will allow you a greater understanding of what others believe.
Explore and find the commonalities you share, aside from the differences. By doing this, you will be able to establish a bond with someone with a different value system.
Agree to disagree
Friendships don't require identical belief systems. They only require tolerance and kindness.
While this is true, at the end of the day, it is good to have someone you can talk to who gets where you are coming from.
I remember working for a vice president of a huge city hospital. It was a wonderful job, but filled with people who didn't always understand or embrace my background. This was vividly illustrated when I got married. My fiance and I were both divorced parents and had been around the block in our relationships. We decided one day not to delay our nuptials. We were anxious to begin to blend our families.
I called the courthouse where we had gotten our license and asked if they had any openings in the next month or so. The response I got was that they were booked up solid for several months, but that they had a cancellation for the next day. Wow! I went to my boss and asked for the day off and told her why. She went into an elated frenzy, ordering flowers for me and shouting the news to everyone. There was absolute joy in the large office that afternoon, until ... I told her I would also need the following day off so that we could move in together.
"No, it's not something we believe in. We don't believe in premarital sex."
"Wait ... you're divorced with kids. It's not like you're 17. How do you know you're compatible?"
She was quite serious and the celebration quickly turned into a therapy session. I could not, for the life of me, get her to understand my value system. I was alone in the wilderness and everyone around me was shaking their heads in utter disbelief.
The people of my faith, however, totally got it and it was nice to be able to go home and laugh about it with them and not feel quite so ridiculed.
The great part was that I was able to relate the whole episode to our older children and teenagers, reinforcing to them that it's perfectly alright to be peculiar and different.
Here are some tips for gaining and giving strength with those who share your values:
Sharing similar experiences with your family at the dinner table will help them see the importance of having both friends from within your belief system and friends from without it. Sharing with friends and family will help you see you're not alone.
Ask your family and friends to talk about their experiences and discuss the benefits of different value systems.
Encourage your children to have faithful friends they can turn to who understand them, but to also include friends from different backgrounds to help them grow a more global outlook. Find a few faithful friends in your life to encourage and support you in living your values.
Having solidarity as a family and making certain to have friends who share our values will give us strength to stand by our convictions. We must bundle ourselves tightly with like-minded folks and then reach out to everyone else, knowing that we're more likely to be able to endure in a world gone a little crazy with good, solid back-up and support.