If you’re asking yourself whether you might lose a friend because of their politics, you’re not alone. This election season has called upon many of us to become more knowledgeable about political issues and understand how they connect to our core values. That reflection is a tiring and painful process. When we come to a new understanding of our own values, we naturally reassess our relationships with people whom we would like to share values. Whichever way you swing, the question is, how did we so easily have friends who held the opposing belief before 2020?
Prior to this year, many people maintained friendships in a society that felt relatively status quo. We didn’t feel as affected by political issues as we do now. We were aware of the issues, but we could separate that awareness from our relationships to others. We can’t do that anymore because so many people are directly affected or know someone who is directly affected by the events of 2020 and the systems that led us here.
In my opinion, our friendships are at stake because we are finally getting clear about how badly these issues affect ourselves and others. In the case of racism, we know that despite making up 13% of the US population, Black people make up 33% of the total prison population. Those numbers are staggering and bring up a lot of emotions. Similar examples are the emotional response we have to September 11th and to the 200,000 lives lost to coronavirus. If a family member has died from COVID, you are likely going to talk about it with friends. If you talk about it, you’re almost guaranteed to express your opinions about how Trump has handled COVID. That leads to the understanding of a moral value you hold which is near impossible to reconcile.
So, where do we go from here? Well, you have options.
You might be someone who thinks relationships are not dependent on the alignment of moral values. If that’s you, then you are going to have an easier time maintaining friendships.
But if you, like me, question whether to sacrifice your moral values for the sake of a friendship, it will be harder. You may wonder if you have to lose the friendship.
Friendship expert Danielle Bayard Jackson has some helpful advice for that: Over time, with any relationship, there might be issues on which you disagree. This year, disagreements are especially likely to occur and feel incredibly challenging. It’s worth it to start by having a conversation to more deeply understand what your friend believes. They might not feel as strongly opposed as you think they do. However, if their opinion deeply conflicts with your own, then you might consider changing the nature of the relationship.
It may feel really uncomfortable to shift your friendship when you used to share so much of your life with them. It might mean setting boundaries about what you are both willing to discuss. It might mean limiting the amount of time you spend with each other. If you are committed to not losing this person, those are some changes that might help to modify the friendship.
However, there may be an instance in which your friend has beliefs that appear unjustifiable. For example, they may hold views that challenge your identity or rights. If you are absolutely unable to reconcile your beliefs about the issues and your conflicting knowledge about your friend, you may be looking at a friend breakup. How you choose to end the relationship all depends on your comfort levels and how much this relationship means to you. No matter what you do, it will probably feel incredibly painful. But if it’s the right thing for you, then it’s okay that you are doing it.
This is a hard time for everyone and for our friendships. If you are in the midst of a complicated friendship, then what you’re going through is incredibly hard. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when you have to stand up to your friends. Many people are going through the same thing. You are not alone.