When people hold beliefs that threaten the things we care about, it’s easy to see them as enemies. Perhaps they believe things that attack our own values and beliefs, or threaten the emotional (or even physical) safety of our friends, loved ones or selves. That’s tough, and feeling defensive and angry is a good and appropriate response.
Yet I would argue it is not the best one. Getting angry and seeing people as enemies leads us to the absolute thinking of “Us vs Them”. The reality is far harder to consider: that it’s Us talking with Us. That there are no lines in the sand, there are no sides to pick: that we’re all on the same field and no one is the enemy.
John and Hank Green talk a lot about understanding one another complexly. That regardless of our views, it’s important to see the human in each other, and to empathise with and understand people. Even people who hold beliefs that might be hurtful, or threatening to us. Even people we are tempted to see as enemies.
Having said that, I don’t mean to imply that we should listen indefinitely to hate speech. But I think that we need to listen to others, even in our hurt and anger, if we want them to do the same to us. The world is a better place when we understand each other more deeply.
An important caveat: when we can no longer listen (because we’re too hurt or angry or whatever), it’s best to remove ourselves from those discussions. If we cannot respond from a place of grounding and compassion, we are likely to do more harm than good, to lash out and sever ties, burn bridges. We must take care of ourselves first, and if we cannot ask the person to stop speaking, we need to step away so that we can’t hear for a bit.