Can you hold to a strong moral ground and still have friends? It often seems impossible, doesn’t it?
Perhaps you have strong political views. You might have a spiritual or religious conviction that is different than “the norm”. Your moral conviction could be on human rights, the environment, child welfare, animals … The truth is that there are so many different areas where we can take a stand, make our line in the sand and refuse to step over it.
It often feels as though we must choose – stand firm in what we believe in and be disliked, or compromise our beliefs in order to have friends.
What a terrible choice to have to make.
Before I say another thing, though, let me make something clear.
Not everyone will like you.
My loyal readers express shock when I say this, and I really love them for that, but there are plenty of people who dislike me, some of them quite intensely.
Recently, the boys and I were talking about this, because they are beginning to realize that they want everyone to like them. They were pretty disappointed to hear that, no matter what you do, not everyone will like you.
In fact, if you try to make everyone like you, the end result is usually that no one will.
When you come across people who are intensely opposed to you despite your best efforts, it’s frequently safe to assume that the problem lies with them. We all have examples in our lives of that happening. Of course we also have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge when we actually did put out our best efforts to make peace and when we simply expected the other to concede to our position. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that our best efforts … really weren’t.
But for those who are willing to give you a chance – how do we put our best foot forward while still holding to our convictions?
How to Have Friends AND Moral Convictions
Tell the truth kindly
It seems we, as a society, love television shows about people who are forthright to the point of rudeness. Roseanne, Bones and House are three that come to mind right away.
The main characters will honestly tell you exactly what they’re thinking, holding nothing back.
We might like to watch it on television, but most of us don’t want that sort of bluntness every day.
How do I know this?
Well, try living with an autistic man every day and you will learn to appreciate why it’s only in court that we state the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I will tell people that autistic honesty is like this – if you ask “Does this dress make my bottom look wide?” he will give me a slightly confused look and say “It’s not the dress that’s doing it.”
Unless you have autism spectrum disorder (and even if you do), you can learn better phrasing.
Be honest, of course, but be careful how you state things.
We can turn someone off our message, even if they would normally be inclined to agree with us, when we thump them about the head with it. And just as importantly – consider whether it really does need to be said.
The worst combination is when it really didn’t need to be said at that moment, and you managed to say it bluntly and rudely.
About a year ago, someone approached me while I was grocery shopping.
We had met previously in the checkout or something similar and he knew I was a Christian. The next time he saw me, I was shopping with my young children and he decided to share with me his views on abortion.
In the grocery store aisle.
It really doesn’t matter what either of us felt on the topic – that was completely and utterly inappropriate.
That’s not a topic I want to have in the grocery store with my best friend, let alone someone I was barely on nodding terms with.
Speak the truth kindly and appropriately, and know when to keep your mouth shut.
Learn more … about more
You don’t want to be the person who always, without fail, talks about your “thing’.
Most of us like to be around people who have knowledge on a wide variety of topics and who can talk about our interests, too, even if they aren’t shared.
We all want to feel appreciated and understood, and when we find people who show that to us, we are more likely to listen to their views.
The wider your knowledge base, the more easily you can fit in and make conversation with people.
When you can provide actual feedback on things that matter to others, instead of expecting them to only care about what matters to you, they will begin gravitating to you. In the process, they will learn more about what you believe, and your opinions will matter more to them.
Avoiding sounding like a know-it-all, though. Especially with Google at our fingertips, no one needs a walking encyclopedia, and most people feel intimidated by that slightly arrogant approach.
Genuinely helpful people are likable. When you take the time to offer your help, it leaves a favourable impression with people and shows that you’re interested in their lives.
Let’s face it – most of us feel like we’re treading water all the time, and any helping hand can make life easier!
Remember the stereotype of the little boy scout who helps the old lady across the street whether she wants to cross or not? Don’t be that person. Unwanted help is often far worse than no help at all. If you are pushy, the impression you will leave won’t be favourable – people will think that you are just craving attention.
In the end, though, if you sincerely and genuinely help people, they will enjoy having you around. Even when your views on some things differ from theirs, they will be more willing to be engaged in conversations about these matters.
Sometimes you can recognize a need and offer your assistance without being asked. If you do this, you must be very careful not to intrude and offend, but in the right situation, the results can be amazing.
Ask for feedback
Whether good or bad, everyone wants to feel important.
Now, again, there are wrong ways and right ways to go about this, but when you need help, ask for it. Tying in with not being a know-it-all, acknowledge and accept that you can’t know everything.
We recently (September 2016) bought a new house. Well, not really new. It was built in 1887 and still has the original glass in the windows and original plaster on many of the walls. Built in an era when wood was inexpensive, it is far from weather-tight. At any rate, in late December we were hit with what they call a “weather bomb” – overnight, the temperature dropped like a rock and we woke to -20C/-2F.
To put that in perspective, normal winter temperatures in our area are in the -10 to 4C range.
And Saturday morning, the furnace wasn’t working downstairs. (The house is heated in two zones – there was no heat coming to the entire downstairs). A quick call to the oil company told me that a weekend service call would end up costing us at least $200.
Sunday morning, at church, I asked everyone I knew, until finally I got the answer – bleed the hot water pipe until it stops hissing and the air is released.
A simple solution, and it took about thirty seconds once we found the release valve, but I am so very grateful for the friend who knew what I didn’t!
When you ask for help, it shows that you recognize the strength and knowledge of others, and that can be the start of a beautiful friendship. None of us can know everything, after all.
Have you noticed that becoming more liked doesn’t have to involve just doing what everyone else is doing? There is no need to go along with the crowd just to have friends.
In fact, following that strategy of “going along with the crowd” will almost always cause damage to your own moral code and leave you feeling lost.
And while that might get you something that looks, from a distance, like friendship, what you’re actually getting is a kind of contempt. It just isn’t worth it – especially when it doesn’t even work. Healthy people don’t want to spend time with anyone who lacks a moral compass.
Instead, focus on enhancing your own personality. Become a friendlier, more helpful, and more knowledgeable version of yourself. Watch out for ways to improve the conversation in a variety of ways instead of always bringing the topic back to your pet topic.
Don’t dwell on making people like you. You can’t actually “make” anyone like you. Work on enhancing your positive qualities and helping others feel good about themselves. When you do that, you can’t help but shine in any crowd.
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