The Power of Engaging “The Other”

Anyone that knows me, knows I enjoy watching Ted Talks. The other day Megan Phelps’ Talk caught my attention. How she relates her experience and the understanding she took from leaving Westboro Baptist Church is what I believe we are trying to capture here, with the power of story.


As she told her story, she told us about her relationship with the world. Her, and her families, inability to hear the other side. She tells the story of how that all changed for her. There is power in the path that her, and “the other,” used to go from angry and divided to understanding and respectful:

Civil Conversation

Genuine Curiosity

Blurring lines between friend and foe.

Taking the time to understand.

Showing care

Second Chances

Embracing with open arms

Finding light

Long hours talking

Washing dishes together

Cooking dinner together

Letting go of harsh judgments

Learning to listen

The path from disagreement is not blame, indignation, and hate, it’s being civil, curious, and honoring the other as a flawed and loved human being.

It’s simple and it’s hard.

We have to talk and listen to people we disagree with. It’s hard because we often can’t fathom how the other side came to their positions. It’s hard because righteous indignation, that sense of certainty that ours is the right side, is so seductive. It’s hard because it means extending empathy and compassion to people who show us hostility and contempt. The impulse to respond in kind is so tempting, but that isn’t who we want to be. We can resist.