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What Do I Say?

How To Respect Those With Differing Views?

With the overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, we can truly rejoice in this major victory for the protection of human life.  While several states have already banned abortion services, and others will soon follow with various limits, abortion here in New York State remains business as usual.  Despite the NYS legislature's strengthening of protections for abortion providers and Governor Hochul's welcome mat for all who seek an abortion, the level of anger and rage has only increased.  In order to keep our own blood pressures down, here a few important reminders when finding yourself engaged in this subject with anyone who opposes legal protection for the unborn.

Respecting those with different views.

1. Be a good ambassador.  If the person with whom we're engaged doesn't feel we respect them, they'll have a hard time believing that we respect all human beings.  Advocating for the sanctity of human life in this polarized culture means we should expect to face anger, scorn, and rejection.   Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that, "A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger."  It may be tempting to reply to harsh words in kind, but in doing so we risk losing a precious opportunity to help them consider a prolife view. 

2.  Be Aware:  Listening well is an acquired skill, and can go far in creating a bond of trust.  If someone who supports abortion reveals a personal experience involving abortion, sexual assault or abuse, we should immediately drop our scripted argument and focus instead on their inherent dignity.  If we say we champion the dignity of the human person, it needs to include the people in front of us.  Abortion is deeply personal to many people. When the conversation becomes heated, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves "Why? Why is this person yelling?"  Often the person yelling the loudest on the outside is crying the hardest on the inside.  When people react in anger, we must not focus on our own feelings, but rather be sensitive to where that anger is coming from.  As Martin Luther King wrote in his letter from the Birmingham jail: "We who engage in non-violent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with."

3.  Character matters.  You might win the argument, but lose the war.  While our words are important, how we behave towards our opponent is even more essential.  The media have portrayed pro-lifers as pushy, rude, and argumentative (among other things).  But when we behave in a way that confounds those expectations, they sit up and take notice.  People may forget the exact words we said, but they will remember how we treated them.   If the people to whom we're speaking feel antagonized, patronized, or cornered, they will be blind to the truth we're trying to convey.  

Being faced with anger should not stop us from speaking the truth. We are called to speak out for the vulnerable knowledgeably, but with wisdom and charity.  To quote Dr. King once again: "Whom you would change, you must first love.  And they must know that you love them."

-Excerpted from "Stuck: A Complete Guide to Answering Tough Questions About Abortion".  Justina Van Allen.  Life Cycle Books, 2019.

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