Rabbi Brad Hirschfield coined the phrase, “You don’t have to be wrong for me to be right,” in his masterful book on radical inclusion.
In Western culture, we have decided that the only way to solve complicated issues is through rigorous debate in which there are clear winners and losers.
This dichotomy has deepened in the U.S., departing from the great debates of our past such as the Jefferson-Hamilton and Reagan-O’Neil compromises.
These compromises, and others like them, required both a dedication to personal conscience and a willingness to make sacrifices.
However, the most significant asset within the debates was a sincere desire by both parties to move forward toward a mutually beneficial solution.
Unfortunately, in today’s political and cultural climate, a new dynamic has arisen: win at all costs. But even this attitude has not been enough. Now, one must also humiliate and destroy the opponent in the process.
This emerging attitude goes against the teachings of Jesus, when he declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Jesus not only prayed for his enemies and those considered enemies by the religious leaders, but also engaged them. He reached out to some with kindness and others with sternness, but always with grace.
He never compromised his conscience, but at the same time, he always understood there was a greater good at play. God’s salvation would always be bending toward grace, love and inclusion.
“Conflict is an inevitable part of life, a function of being connected to each other, and often, an opportunity to grow closer,” Rabbi Hirschfield claimed. “Perhaps it is too much to promise that we can resolve all of our conflicts, but it’s not too much to promise that with the right approach we can at least address them more constructively.”
Therefore, as we engage more and more with sensitive issues, let us keep in mind that there is a narrow way for all of us to be faithful to conscience and gracious to others.
We must remember that history is always bending toward divine justice.
As we engage in critical conversations that have the potential to divide us, let us heed the wisdom of Rabbi Hirschfield’s father who advised, “Remember that you marry people because of certain things and despite certain things.”
Conscience and community can coexist.