Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being Challenged, Finding Comfort

I'm in another writing funk; yesterday I started several posts covering various subjects but just couldn't type out enough coherent thoughts to form a blog entry that I felt comfortable making public.  I'm still feeling that way today but in order to power through this latest block,  I'm turning to NaBloPoMo's prompt of the day to find inspiration and get my creative juices flowing again.  So here it goes:

Today's writing prompt:  Frank Clark said: "We find comfort among those who agree with us - growth among those who don't." Agree or disagree?

My response:  Absolutely! Whether it be at home with my family or out and about with close friends, I am in my comfort zone when I know and like the people around me.  It is easy to be around these people and many times easy equates to comfort. However, I am a person who is always up for a challenge and there is nothing I find more invigorating than participating in a well thought out and intellectually stimulating conversation with someone who is in complete disagreement with me on an issue.  I'm not talking about someone who feels strongly about an issue and justifies their responses with statements along the lines of "because I say so", "because I think so", or "because so and so says so".  Rather I relish a well thought out argument based on a variety of facts, sources, and life experiences that may cause me to be uncomfortable, but one that will also cause me to step back and think about my own stance on the issue.  These conversations definitely take me out of my comfort zone but as uncomfortable as they may seem at the time, I know they are good for me.

During my first few post-college years I had a friend who provided me with just such an intellectual challenge.  As single twenty somethings struggling to find the right job, the right life partners, and the right path in life, we met through a mutual friend and formed a strange friendship that endured for several years.  On the surface we had nothing in common:  he could be considered conservative to my liberal, his religious upbringing was everything that mine wasn't; our political views couldn't have been more different.  In hindsight I have no idea how we even became friends.  The only thing we did have in common was the fact we were both smart, well read, and could argue our points and opinions with conviction.  And we were willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.  I think this was the key to our friendship.  Our conversations were rarely comfortable but over the course of several years worth of dinners and beers, we challenged each other intellectually.  Through our conversations I found myself thinking about subjects from a viewpoint that I would never have thought of on my own.  I can't say he ever changed my stance on any of the more "hot button" issues but it certainly opened my mind to other ways of seeing the world.  

There wasn't any particular event that triggered our parting but over time we drifted apart.  We both changed jobs and houses, got married and had children.  As I've gotten older I know my stance on some issues has changed.  I've become more liberal on some issues and increasingly conservative on others. I'm no longer the slightly naive twenty something who thought I knew everything and was out to change the world.  I am more willing than ever to listen to opposing viewpoints and yes, on occasion I will now (slightly) change my views on issues.  I still find many of these conversations uncomfortable but again, discomfort can be healthy.  After all, how else can we grow?

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