I had a text exchange recently with a friend who was grew up with a conservative Christian upbringing, but has since left the church and stopped believing. She was reluctant to watch a video that her uncle gifted to her, (likely in a passive-aggressive attempt to bring her back into the fold), which ostensibly made a case for everything from the Biblical great flood to the Christian resurrection, based on archeological artifacts and other kinds of data.
"I struggle with that sort of thing," she said. "Like: what if that evidence was in any way legit or convincing? I'm not sure I could be convinced to revisit my conclusions at this point."
My friend had gone through a rather dramatic break with her religious faith and didn't want to re-open that wound, or to find herself swayed to return. It would be too disruptive to an identity and belief structure that she had worked hard to rebuild.
That got me thinking. So many of us struggle with political or religious discourse with people who don't agree with us because we are afraid of the kind of fundamental changes to our beliefs and identities that such talks may bring. Maybe we don't feel confident in our own positions because they are new, or because we've never really thought about them in a deep way before. Maybe we are afraid of being manipulated or hoodwinked, and finding ourselves confused, lost, not knowing who we are or what we believe.
Trusting our own critical thinking skills and our ability to make good decisions, and having the confidence that we will find our way, is essential to have open and civil dialogues with people who disagree with us. If we're afraid of being manipulated, then we won't listen. We need to work to build our thinking and reasoning skills. We need to have the confidence to consider.