“Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.”

I don’t like tomatoes. I never have, and will spit them out if I end up by some horrible accident eating one. This is different from other foods I don’t like the flavor of. I can handle wheat grass and algae and pretty much anything I know is healthy for me even if it tastes bad. But tomatoes must stay away, they are specifically yucky.

Now here’s what’s interesting. Nothing I said is controversial even though it’s likely that very few people reading it agree with me. Most people like tomatoes, which is why they are a staple ingredient in many foods. Me not liking them has no bearing on if you do, which is why you can read about my distaste with humor (or recognition, for those who share my dislike).

But let’s say I told you my opinion on vaccines, or who I voted for, or anything else that treads near the realm of politics. Now there is ire and controversy, because these are community oriented beliefs that impact the community. If I say something communal you disagree with, it’s very likely one of the following will happen:

a) we’ll try to convince each other of our side

b) avoid the topic but change our opinion of each other

c) cut off contact.

This is because community to date is usually based on agreement. People who like the same music, or spiritual teacher, or lifestyle, will form a community around it. We feel connection most easily with people who agree with us, and thus connection in our minds becomes synonymous with agreement.

Now I am going to posit that two people can have an amazing, deep connection and radically different politics, spiritual beliefs, and even lifestyles. We all know this is true and have probably experienced it in our lives. This is because actual connection exists on a level that has nothing to do with agreement.

It’s about presence and showing up for each other. Real connection has everything to do with how we help each other, not if we agree with each other.

Yet especially in today’s climate, friendships and even marriages are being destroyed over politics. This destruction is happening over the effort to convince each other of our side, which is really about trying to find connection using agreement as the means.

When we understand that we can connect with each other without agreeing with each other, it liberates society. The “us vs. them” mentality disappears, along with the social pressure to conform to the group. Amazing masterpieces in art have been co-created by people who had radically different visions, and one of the strengths of the US government is how vehemently the Founding Fathers disagreed with each other yet united around the cause of building a new country. Through the conflict of disagreement greatness is born.

The great divide in American politics today is that agreement became prized over service. My suggestion is the next time you encounter someone you disagree with, ask if there’s a way you can help them, and focus on working with them rather than convincing them.

When you start creating community based on service and collaboration rather than agreement, everyone’s strengths come to the table, and you gain insights not possible when you only talk to people who agree with you.

PS. I know today’s climate is particularly dicey, as political figures once again use issues of race, gender, and sexuality to incite harm. To this I recommend this TED talk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORp3q1Oaezw. In it a black man details how he befriends KKK members and wins them over with kindness. When we place service over agreement, hate dies.