What to Do When You Can’t Agree With the People You Love On Politics

This photo is a visual representation of the polarizing tension that most of us are living in right now.

This is a political sign for Trump, with a not-so-subtle protest affixed to it. The sign probably represents the tension in your Facebook news feeds, and in your own communities.

This sign also represents the tension in my own home.  Because this sign is sitting in my garage.

The Story Behind the Sign

It was the week before the election. My husband, a life-long Republican and an Iowa farmer, brought his Trump sign home. The folks at the county GOP office hoped he might put it up in the yard. To my husband, the sign represented the promise of a better America. He wanted to plant that sign out front, but he knew what I would say before he even asked:

“Um… NO.”

There we stood in the kitchen. It was a standoff between a husband who would vote for Trump — and the wife who wouldn’t.

The sign didn’t go in the yard. Scott set it against the wall in the garage. A day later, our 12-year-old daughter Anna quietly went outside and affixed a Post-It note to the sign with a single word:


This is the state of things in our house right now. This is the very real tension that we are living in, day after day.

In a weird way, the tension in my home is a gift. It’s a hard and painful gift, but I choose to call it a gift anyway. Because it is teaching us something very important about what it means to find unity in the midst of a sharp divide.

Which is why my husband and I invited you into our home today.

We want you to know that if you are experiencing deep tension, you are neither alone nor powerless. We invite you — not for a fight, but in the name of unity. Scott and I are learning how to navigate this, and we hope what we’ve learned helps you, wherever you are, however you voted, whomever you support.

Chances are, you are dealing with tension too. This post is for anyone who can’t see eye-to-eye with the people they love dearly, yet don’t have the option of unfriending their spouse, best friend, sister-in-law, or their own kid. These are your people. And you just want to figure out how to live in peace with them.

First of all, our divisions should not shock us. Neither Scott nor I is shocked by what’s happening in our own home. When we married, we knew we didn’t see eye to eye on everything. We jokingly referred to ourselves as Carville and Matalin, a political couple famously known for their opposing views.

But we got married. Here’s why:

Because we loved “us,” more than we hated what was different. 

That conviction brought Scott and I to the altar, and it’s what keeps us together all these years later. Maybe that’s a starting place for each of us today:

We can love “us,” more than we hate what is different. 

Statistically speaking, we are collectively “different.” If you had to pick sides, half of you would be standing next my husband, and half of you would be standing near me.

But it’s not that black-and-white, is it? This is way more nuanced than two “sides.”

Imagine three cardboard boxes.

People are putting everyone into one of three boxes.

The first box is labeled: “heartless, bigoted conservative.”

The second box is labeled: “whiny, bleeding-heart liberal.”

The third box sits in the middle, a little higher than the other two, and it is labeled: “I’m right.”

The funny thing is, everybody thinks he himself is sitting in the “I’m right” box, and anyone who is “other” is assigned to one of the other two boxes.

Here’s where Scott and I began long ago, back when we decided to “love us, more than to hate what was different.” We looked at the stupid boxes. And then we threw them all away.

Step One: Throw Away the Stupid Boxes

Putting people in boxes is easy. We do it because we’re lazy and stubborn. We don’t have to think as much when we have boxes. We get terribly frustrated when we can’t find a box to put someone in.  It’s easier to label someone, than to do the harder, nuanced work of trying to see that someone else might have a point.

Harder still is this:

To believe that your deepest convictions and “their” deepest convictions are both born out of a deep love for God and/or humankind.

Because I live with someone who thinks differently than I do, it would be tempting to put him in a box. But I don’t get to put Scott in a box.

Why? Because I live with him. I see who he really is.

Every morning, I find my husband wide awake in his recliner, reading the Bible.

Every night, I see him kneeling at the side of the bed, praying with our daughters.

I watch how he is generous with his finances — giving to causes that might surprise the most left-leaning liberal.

I watch how he spends hundreds of hours every year devoted to prison ministry.

And I have observed his dedication as school board president for our public school.

I don’t fit in a box either. Statistically speaking, I might have fit in the Trump box: I am a white evangelical Christian woman and a registered Republican. But I didn’t vote for Trump, and I have never once voted straight-ticket.

Since I didn’t vote Trump, some of you might have put me in a “Hillary Clinton box.” But I don’t belong there, either. I am pro-Life, and because of that, I am also pro-refugee. I voted for a third-party candidate named Evan McMullin.

There’s always more than what we first choose to see.

Humans are too complicated for stupid boxes.

Step Two: Resist the Urge to Be Right

Scott is not a simple man, but he has a simple approach to dealing with conflict. Every day at lunch, we talk about politics, the Supreme Court, the latest with the refugee crisis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the farm economy, and more. Which means, every single day, we are entering a potential minefield. Sometimes, there are tears.

If it gets hot in the kitchen, Scott steps out of the room. He doesn’t make a big scene. It’s his way of saying, “I’m not going to tell you how right I am, and I’m not to listen to you explain how right you are.”

Scott loves “us,” more than he hates what’s different.

Also? He loves “us,” more than he loves being right. 

Jennifer Dukes Lee
Jennifer Dukes Lee
I am a storyteller and a grace dweller, blogging about faith at JenniferDukesLee.com. I'm author of The Happiness Dare and Love Idol. I’m a journalist at heart. I used to cover crime, politics, and natural disasters as a news reporter for several Midwestern metropolitan daily newspapers. Now, I use my reporting skills to chase after the biggest story ever: the redemptive story of Christ. (That’s front-page news.) I cling to the hope of a cross, and I’m passionate about sharing the Good News through story. I believe in miracles; I am one. I marvel at God’s unrelenting grace for stumbling...

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