All of my life I have been a fence sitter-an idealist, a peacemaker, maybe a people pleaser at times. When it comes to tough topics and issues I have always found myself conflicted in choosing a side. I feel things deeply. And because I often see things from both sides, I often struggle with the weight of, and divisions caused by tough topics and disagreements.
I’m just like everyone else though too. Sometimes, I find myself swayed more to one side than the other. And when I feel someone is just trying to be mean, I struggle not to react. But ever since I have started looking at everything through the lens of love, I’ve started to notice that the more I sway to one side or the other, the more frustrated I become at the person on the other side of the fence. I get frustrated by their inability to see or hear what I am saying. That frustration usually leads it’s way to anger or some form of self righteous indignation on my part. But I also really dislike confrontation and arguing. So I’ve often shy’d away, unsure how to converse and get through issues without getting upset or feeling pressured to pick a side. And so, of course the abortion debate was always something I avoided.
And yet here I am, ha. I still struggle, but in order to love I think it’s also valuable to have enough integrity to hold hard conversations regardless of our beliefs. And if we can do so with respect and transparency we have the opportunity to understand our own opinions at a deeper level. This is no easy achievement obviously. You know the arguments. Those in the Pro-Choice camp, judge those in the pro-life as being anti-choice and anti-woman. They remind us of the consequences and ramifications of governing controls over bodies. They argue that legislating who can and can’t have access to abortions strips the individual of their right to choose the course of their care in pregnancy, thereby de-valuing the lives of women. They feel and argue that we have a moral obligation to protect these (often marginalized), lives from governing controls over their bodies. They share examples of the thousands of women who die each year. Like the Irish woman who was denied an abortion while miscarrying. As well as the women we may not hear about but are placed in danger when they seek abortions illegally.
The pro-life camp judges those in the pro-choice, as being anti-life and anti-infant. They argue that allowing abortions devalues the life of the child. They feel and argue that we have a moral obligation to protect the innocent lives of these babies. They remind us not only of the sheer number of terminated pregnancies, but also the potential emotional aftermath of those that choose abortions. They share stories of those women, as well as those of the babies who survived abortions.
Ironically both camps point out that the other is advocating death or murder in one way or another, and both point out the hypocrisies of the other camp.
And so we sift through the arguments. And let’s be honest we look for evidence to support our own. To prove that we are right. And being the fence sitter that I am, I feel myself torn. And not more than a week ago I found myself being sucked into debating both sides simultaneously, as old habits die hard. And there are valid points on both sides of the argument, and if I’m being honest, I hold judgements against both. Even on a personal level I feel pulled to both sides. On the one hand, I am a woman and I do not want someone telling me what I must and mustn’t do with my body. But I have also spent the last twelve years trying to get pregnant, (with one successful pregnancy in there). It pains me that while many women are going to painstaking lengths to get pregnant, others are going to painstaking lengths to end their pregnancy. To me the life of the baby and mother are equal. But I also recognize the complexity of the debate. I too believe the baby is a life, not a clump of cells. But I also recognize that the baby cannot survive without the body of the mother, her life matters too. It is not a cut and dry issue to me. Both sides or choices can cause harm. How does one choose, if by choosing one side, we devalue and possibly endanger or end a life? I cannot say without a doubt one side is right, and one is wrong. If you believe you can, that’s great. Perhaps this conversation is not for you. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind, I’m hear to encourage the sharing of hearts.
But the argument continues, we throw insults over the fence at one another, each side calls the other a murderer. We speak destructive things about one another as if anyone one of us is perfectly qualified to judge someone else. We say hey let me take that speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in our own. We judge with our human limitations, and become unable to see one another.
So at times when I’m perched on my fence, and in an effort for peace, I’ve tried to do my part. We all tend to think we know better and I’m no different, so I try help the other side to see. I point out to each camp the valid parts of the others argument. But ultimately it doesn’t help either. Usually it just turns their anger and frustration towards me, as if now we are against one another.
And suddenly it occurred to me, perhaps I couldn’t see things any clearer than they could. Not even from my position up on the fence. We were all using judgement to prove that we know what’s best. And it has been my experience that while judgement can be helpful in terms of sourcing danger, it can also lend itself to control. And when we try to control others, our critical spirit steals our joy and peace, robbing us of hope.
It pollutes our heart and makes us vulnerable to hatred. We plant seeds of unforgiveness and this condemnation takes root in our hearts and minds.
Which is why above all things I am attempting to live my life through love. So you ask, what does that even mean? How does that solve anything?
For me, it means instead of sorting through the arguments to judge who is right and who is wrong, I look for words of life—of truth, and most importantly of love. I find these things on both sides of the debate. The debate is fueled by judgement and morality, but in fact both sides believe they are fighting for lives. And that seems to be about where the love ends. This is where we employ fear, judgement and anger, in our attempt to control or sway one another’s opinions. And this control divides us. And so it’s with this knowledge I attempt to lay down my judgements. And I am weary of those who attempt to control and cause divisions, as I think we need to consider that such persons may have there own appetites.
So am I saying we should do nothing? No. I’m saying, “hey this really complicated. Maybe, instead of furthering the argument and pouring our judgements over who the bigger murderer is, perhaps we could focus on self control, loving and understanding one another, in order to find solutions.“
We can share information. We can ask each other questions to get to the root of our goals. If you say you want to save women’s lives but the focus of your argument is to call someone’s belief system stupid, or you bang on about clumps of cells, when there’s evidence to the contrary, I may question what you think you will achieve by doing so. And I’d hope you ask yourself the same question. I ask myself, where is the love? And alternately if you say you want to save babies by implementing controls, although there is evidence showing that laws banning abortions don’t stop abortions, I may question what you are trying to achieve. And I’d hope you ask yourself the same question. I ask myself, where is the love?
Again, I’m not here to tell anyone they are wrong. I’m not here to change minds. I’m here to love.
I question to understand, in order to employ compassion, not judgement. It’s not that I don’t have opinions, obviously I do. But I also know that my example is more powerful than my opinion. So if I want women to stop seeking abortions (and I do). Maybe it’s more important to try to understand why anyone would choose to obtain one. Perhaps we can focus our energies on understanding and implementing what actually works to stop abortions. And so far I’m discovering it’s not control that stops abortions, it’s education, counselling, love and support that lessens the likelihood a woman will choose to terminate her pregnancy. You can support the organizations that help women recover from addiction, that aid homeless or abused women, that counsel young women and help support single mothers. There are so many loving things we can do to ensure women feel they have other choices than abortion.
Some may say that I am then just allowing abortions, pro choice by default. And others believe that if I’m not fighting against controls, I’m just rolling over to allow them. I fully understand why you may perceive it that way. And I have no intention of correcting your judgements. That’s actually the whole point, I believe control has no place in love. I’m trying not to control anyone, not even their opinion. When it comes to love, and self control; against such things their is no law or judgement that can break my spirit. My spirit is to be joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, love and self control. I’m trying to use love to tear down the fence, the judgements, that stop me from seeing another. I’m shifting my focus from fear, shame and division; to love, life and connection. Because when we put down our judgements, our hearts can soften and fill with love, and it’s then we can work together for good.
Because above all things there is love, and through love all things are possible.