Recently, I was chatting with an acquaintance, and it came up in conversation that I’m an atheist. Her immediate response was, “Oh, that’s sad.”
I didn’t know how to respond in the moment. I thought about reversing the sentiment: “And you’re a Christian? You count on, talk to, and request favors from an invisible being in the sky. That’s sad.”
Rude, right? I didn’t want to play that game. So I kept quiet. Here’s what I wish I had told her:
Calling someone else’s belief system “sad” or “stupid” or “silly” is never okay, whether it comes to religion, politics, lifestyle, body image, parenting, etc.
It’s so easy to isolate ourselves from different perspectives, opinions, and lifestyles. Which is the really sad thing. On the other hand, when we respectfully engage with people who think differently than we do, we get the opportunity to grow, learn, and practice empathy. Let’s seek connection first, instead of assuming the defensive or instantly labeling someone else as sad, silly, or stupid. As Brene Brown wisely says,
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”― Brené Brown
So, call people out when they’re being dismissive or rude. Ask them to really see you, to step into your thoughts for a bit. Some people will be angry, but some will surprise you. Why miss out on the opportunity to expand someone’s worldview or have yours expanded in turn?