There are two sides to every issue. This is a very simple concept, but it is one that often gets forgotten when individuals with opposing views come together. Many know in the back of their mind that there are always two sides to every issue, but they struggle and sometimes even refuse to admit or realize that the other side has validity.
With every new year, we get a new wave of controversial topics that are heavily debated. These topics are ones that I have always steered clear of when talking with my friends because I have always believed, from past experiences, that talking about such topics is the easiest way to lose friends. The risk is always there, regardless of how strong your relationship is with a person. For the longest time, I wondered why this is the case. Only recently did I acquire some modicum of reasoning on the matter, after talking with some of my close friends about it.
Some people recognize that there are always two sides to every issue, as much as a generalization as that is, they also believe that there is only one correct side to every issue. I do not like to use this generalization, but I feel as though it is the clearest way in which I can present this problem to you. I am not trying to assert that all members of the human race engage in this type of logic. I am merely saying that it seems that a major part of the human race has the mindset of their point being correct outright.
Now, there have been times in human history where we have had to deal with issues revolving around unmeasurably complicated matters such as racial supremacy, slavery, terrorism and religious oppression. Issues like these are some of, if not the most, difficult to navigate, due to the fact that there is not even a single point of view because they are too nuanced. I would make the argument that there were times in the past where there was a clear moral choice to be made, but, despite those choices being obvious in retrospect, the people living during those times did not see one particular choice as being the correct one to make.
A difference of ideas is not what causes conflict and bloodshed between two groups of people. Rather, it is the inability of one or both groups to listen to what they are hearing from the other. We hear things naturally, but to listen is to actively give your attention to the sound you are hearing.
What’s more is that the setting is almost insignificant in the broader picture. It doesn’t matter if it’s a presidential debate involving the major issues of a country or just two individuals having a debate about what the best album by an artist is. This problem doesn’t have boundaries or borders of restriction. It permeates all of humanity arbitrarily and impartially.
Thankfully, it is a solvable problem, though not easily. The first step is to start listening. I cannot emphasize this point enough. We all have our own beliefs, philosophies, histories, ideologies, ideas of progress and ideas of moral right and wrong. It is a blessing that we can all have these things in our own unique ways, but it is also a great curse, as it is the source of all disagreement in the world. No matter how removed something may be, everything comes back to the foundational things that make each of us our own person, and those foundations often clash with one another.
Listening to the opposition is not something that we should be intimidated by. We should not feel as though it is an act of danger or risk to put ourselves in a position to listen to those who we don’t agree with. How can a person consider themselves as being on the “right” side of an issue when they are moved out of their own realm of comfort by the very thought of hearing out the other side?
Disagreement is a natural thing, and we have little control over all disagreement there is in the world, but what disagreement breeds is something that we can control. It does not have to end in acts of violence, exclusion or a refusal to ever engage in conversation with the other side. At the very least, we should aim to reach a mutual understanding from disagreement, and ideally, we should strive for a decision that works best for everyone, not just one side or the other. It is not a contest between two sides in which one needs to come out on top. It’s a conversation where both sides need to come to a consensus.
Listening is something that I struggle with too, and I realize that it is far easier to ruminate about these ideas, as I have here, than it is to actively practice them in real-life situations. However, ruminating about something is often times the precursor to carrying it out. I implore you to do the same, as this issue of not listening is just as much an individual problem as it is a collective one, and we must all do our part to rectify it.