I’ve decided to table my attempt to be funny (emphasis on the word attempt) to write about something that happened in the news this week that really strikes a chord with me. It wasn’t NFL free agency, Pope Watch 2013, or the excitement behind watching Justin Bieber take his first steps into the inevitable child star meltdown. What grabbed my attention were the headlines concerning Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman deciding that he has changed his view on gay marriage, in large part because his son came home from school and told him that he is gay. It is certainly an eye opening, and with any luck a mind expanding story. I’m not telling anyone what to believe or if they are right or wrong about those beliefs. After all, that’s the beauty of having a belief. And I’m not educated or experienced enough to preach anything one way or the other, although it doesn’t stop me from trying. I do know that it seems people will think with more of an open mind and act with greater conviction when they allow their hearts to play a greater role rather than worry so much about perception, historical context, and petty consequences.
In this news report we have a conservative, Christian, Midwestern man born in 1955. It’s very easy to see not only why, but how Senator Portman developed a belief that two people of the same sex should not be married. Again, if that’s what you believe that‘s great so long as you know why you believe it. But then came a day where Portman had to ask himself a question that very well served as the basis of his new found position on gay marriage. This question reminded him to omit the insignificant aspects of a belief and emphasize the vital ones. Things like approval ratings, votes, professional relationships, and public perception were completely vacated from his mind and replaced with a simpler reverberation of unconditional love. I have to think he merely asked himself “how do I feel now that it’s my son?” Suddenly the echoes in his head of outrage and disagreement weren’t so loud. Like most parents, he couldn’t imagine not being supportive of his children. What if he turned the question around on his critics and colleagues and they too considered it: ‘What if it was my son? What if it was my daughter?’ News outlets released teasers that the Senator’s change in belief was due to something extremely personal. Shouldn’t everything you believe in be personal?
My point actually has nothing to do with gay marriage. It’s only a timely example. If this was Germany in 1941 or Virginia in the early 1800’s, or even just a kid at school getting bullied, I suppose I could find a few reasons I’d employ this same line of thinking. A lot of times we’re told to desensitize ourselves to some of the issues out there because it clears our minds and allows for a rational response, but we’re not talking about balancing a budget or laying off employees. This is what we believe in. It needs to be sensitized. Essentially, next time you are in a position where a belief is either being formed or considered, please don’t flood your mind with bull shit about how you were raised, what political party you stand with, or even worse – what you were told to think. Recognize the effects of having that belief and ask yourself: ‘What if it was my son? What if it was my daughter?’ The answer might reshape a truer version of you. And if asking yourself this question doesn’t work because you’re one of those ‘I know I don’t want to have kids’ types, be careful, you might change your mind.