I have friends of all religions and beliefs. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics and more… yes there are many, many more. Some believe that their way of thinking is the right way, the only way, the best way and some believe that there are many ways and their way is just one of many.
Two or three of these groups hold a strong belief that part of their job on Earth is to get others to join them and believe as they do. They walk around and knock on doors to spread the word, they spend their own money and travel far away from home to spread the word, and they do wonderful things to help others hoping to spread the word.
When someone like this comes to my door I answer it. I am kind and polite, I tell them that I do not believe as they do but I am happy to talk to them. I ask where they are from and about their lives. I ask how it is going and offer water or to come in and rest a while. Then I tell them who I am and what I believe and hope that they learn something from meeting me. Years ago when my children were little my older son asked me why they kept coming around… they came often, maybe because they thought that my kindness meant I might be on the path to accepting whatever they were pushing. I told my son that for those people who believed the way they did, they were driven to do it. They thought that everyone had to believe what they believe and that they were helping to save us. I told my children that those people were doing their best, following their hearts, doing what their church told them was right and what their parents wanted them to do. My older son asked me why I listened… I told him I listened because that was what I wanted to do… maybe I was the only person who didn’t slam the door in their face that day. I was helping them by asking questions that might make them think more deeply about their own ideas. And I talked to them because I like to meet new people and learn new things.
So when you meet someone with different beliefs don’t judge. When you think about it, their religious beliefs are probably no more outlandish to you than yours are to them… no matter what you believe, there is someone out there who will not agree and that should be ok. Respect mine and I will respect yours. Trying to make you believe what I believe says that there is only one way and that way is my way. In my classroom I often tell children when issues of belief come up that ‘Yes, some people believe THAT but not everyone believes the same thing and that is ok, we don’t need to argue about it.’
Being open to listening to new ideas is what helps us all connect. When you understand someone else’s motivation you can better respect the choices they make. It opens you up to connecting with them. It makes you care…