Then I’m Not Living

“Why do I have to be angry at them for what they believe?”

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions

  • Why does the speaker find the image of children playing useful?
  • What does she think gets in the way of their getting along and calling each other friends?
  • How would you describe her relationship to her own beliefs and values?
  • What does she suggest doing when our differences get in the way of relating?

Interpretive Questions

  • Would there ever be a reason to have a Christian-only space? or a Muslim-only space? or an Asian-American-only space? or a white-only space? If there are reasons, do they undermine the storyteller’s position?  Why/why not?
  • Does anger have a place in community? in relationship? Why do you think the storyteller is so critical of anger?
  • What part of the speaker’s solution to “this weirdness that is diversity” would you be interested in putting to use? Why?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Then I’m Not Living

If I wanted to explain to someone, or a group of people, how to make their community inclusive so that everyone felt welcome at the table, I would say that it’s really — it really boils down to this: if you think about when you were kids, and there is that one kid who is ethnically diverse, religiously diverse, whatever, it’s something that you are not, right? And you’re friends with them, or you know, you have kids and your kids are friends, whatever, you just see these kids on the playground, and that’s not what it’s about, right? It’s not about, you know, ‘I worship Allah,’ and, ‘I worship God.’ They’re just playing. And somehow, regardless of whether they have these two different ideas of what God is, or what politics are, or whatever, they can play and get along. And they both feel like they can call each other friends. And then they grow up and they get corrupted and we’re all in these systems, and what is community, and what is diversity, and it’s a shame, and we all know that.

But if you think about it like that, like that would be — that characteristic of being able to connect with someone regardless of the fact that they are a different religion, that they are a different sexual orientation is it. You know? That I can have this friend — I as Christian and them as a Muslim — and we can work on a project, and be friends, and maybe fall in love, or maybe, you know, just have this relationship. And it’s not about — I’m not afraid to talk about the things that are personal to me — you know, my God and my faith — and they’re not afraid to talk about theirs. But why do I have to be angry at them for what they believe? Why do I have to feel like this space that I’m sitting in is a Christian-only space? We can only talk about Christian things and only be happy about Christian things. Because then I’m not living. I’m not inviting anyone else into my circle because no one believes exactly the same thing. Or the people — maybe a few people believe exactly the same thing, then you’re only going to have a few friends, you know? That’s not the real world.

We live on a sphere that is full of all these different beliefs and people, and we’re so angry all the time. And when we’re angry, we’re keeping those two kids from playing with each other. You know, at some point in their lives, they’re probably told that they can’t be friends. And that’s our anger. And they had something beautiful, and peaceful, and innocent, and we corrupted it. And that’s — that’s what communities need to do to get beyond this weirdness that is diversity. It’s to stop pretending like our anger has anything to do with who you or I are as a person. If you have anger issues about homosexuality, or different religions, or whatever, that’s something that you deal with despite the person or in conjunction with the person, and help them understand where you’re coming from, and communicate. Because when you stop communicating, you’re stopping — you’re just stopping the community and you’re letting the anger get the best of you. And when we’re in a community, we start these weird social norms where maybe I may or may not have believed something before, but now that I have all of these friends who believe something? All of a sudden, I believe it too. And I never thought it out. And now their anger’s my anger, and I don’t know why. And so, communication and a heightened awareness of what the issue even is, and being able to separate that from who that person is as a person so that you can just go and play, that’s how you do it. Solved it.