I met some amazing friends during college. Regardless of passing years and increasing geographic distance, many of my friends and I have managed to maintain our relationships. I have no doubt this is partially due to the fact that we share very similar views. With these girls, it’s easy to talk about anything because I know they’ll understand my perspective. I can seek council from them and trust their advice because they share my values.
My husband and I moved to the DC area last September. I now find myself amongst very diverse peers. Many of them hold views that diverge from mine on topics that range from politics to gender roles to the outward expressions of Christian faith. How can I form genuine, beneficial friendships with these individuals when we’re so different?
While I’m no expert at forming these friendships, I have learned some helpful lessons over the last few months.
- Be humble. I hold the opinions and views I do because I believe they are correct. Why else would I hold them? When interacting with people who hold alternative perspectives, I have the tendency to develop feelings of self-righteousness or superiority because I believe I hold the correct perspectives and their perspectives are incorrect. This will obviously not contribute to a healthy friendship! I have to take note of these feelings when they creep in and then intentionally assume a humble attitude. Regardless of which perspective is correct, pride is always wrong.
- Listen. People generally have legitimate reasons for holding the views they do. They will often share when I ask questions and listen intently. This not only helps me understand them, but helps me see what God is doing in their lives. While we may not come to share the same perspective, I feel I’m able to be a better friend when I understand why they value the things they do.
- Be patient. It sometimes takes longer to build camaraderie and trust in these friendships. It’s not impossible and it’s definitely worth the effort, but I’ve found it takes longer to form these bonds.
- Be prudent when giving and receiving advice. I’ve found that I need to check my motives when I’m giving advice within these friendships. Am I giving advice to try to change them so they share my perspectives or am I giving advice that is in their best interest given the situation at hand? When seeking advice, I need to carefully consider if the friend before me is well-suited to give advice on the topic for which I’m seeking it. While he or she may be a great person who shares my faith, it may be more appropriate to seek advice from someone who shares more of my viewpoints. I want to make sure the advice is coming from someone who is invested in helping me think through and solve issues in a way that is congruent with my values.
A tough decision
Is there ever a time when the viewpoints between two people are so different that it’s unwise to pursue a friendship? I think there is. The Bible teaches us not to be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). If two people of unequal strength, character, and convictions are yoked together, then plowing will be more difficult than necessary—one member of the team will easily and inevitably overpower the other. If a person who holds Biblical values forms a close friendship with someone who does not, the friend who lacks Biblical values can overpower the friend who has them. Many will argue that the converse is also true. Technically it is. However, the risk of the Biblically-minded friend being overtaken is so great that Scripture warns against these sorts of relationships. Does this mean we should entirely avoid people who hold values that differ from ours? Absolutely not! Even Christ had social contact with people who differed considerably from Him in terms of their values (Mark 2:15-17). It just means that these individuals probably should not be our closest friends, such as those we turn to for accountability and advice.
Do you have friendships with people whose views differ from yours? What makes these friendships work?