I called a good friend of mine recently to catch up on life and discuss whatever came to mind. As it often does, the conversation turned to politics, and I expressed a view my friend did not share. He called me on it, inviting me to explain my thinking on the matter in more detail. I can’t say I did a very good job, though through his push-back I did get to explore a few different ideas and examine my thinking more clearly.
In the end I don’t think either of us changed the other’s mind, but I’m grateful for the experience. It’s a rare gift to have a friend who pushes you to think things through, and in such a way that you don’t feel attacked in the process. Well, at least not too much. I do admit to feeling a little frustrated at times, and perhaps a little on the spot. But I knew my friend was not thinking any less of me for having found a weak spot in my beliefs.
Really, I think we could all do with a little questioning from time to time. Echo-chambers don’t encourage us to become better. Yes-men don’t help us identify flaws in our reasoning, don’t give us the opportunity to consider new ideas or see the issues from the other side. A true friend is one who can help you examine yourself more closely, while also helping you feel safe to take a few chances.
I think one of the reasons I feel safe with this friend is that I have on occasion helped him change his mind, or at least broaden his views, so I know he’s not picking on me just to prove how right he is.
Having such a friend is not always comfortable. Being challenged and helped to confront your inconsistencies is not always fun. But I could hardly consider myself an honest person if I can’t endure some well-intended discomfort from time to time. I’m grateful to have such a friend.