I have a confession to make: I am terrible at talking about controversial apologetics issues. Give me a heart who needs to know it is loved and a soul suffering from loneliness, and I am all over it. But explaining to a friend why she shouldn’t be on birth control? My palms get sweaty, and suddenly my vocabulary mainly consists of “Ummmms” and “Uhhhhs.” This doesn’t mean I don’t have those hard conversations; it just means I really don’t like to have them.
So imagine my dilemma in January 2013 when I found myself in D.C. for the March for Life. After the march, I was going to meet up with Kyle,* my old friend from college. In a worldly sense, Kyle has all the makings of success; He works for the Obama administration, lives with his boyfriend, and is super trendy. We were pretty close in college, but a lot had changed in my heart and my life since I had last seen him. I was terrified for the moment when I had to tell him why I was in D.C. I didn’t want to have the pro-life vs. pro-choice conversation.
We met up at Union Station, had a delicious burger for dinner, and then headed back to his place to hang out for the rest of the evening. After some good old fashioned nostalgia, the moment I had been dreading came.
“So, Michelle, I have a question for you. If I think abortion is wrong after two weeks, does that make me pro-life?”
I blinked and took a deep breath. Instead of launching into my pre-rehearsed speech about loving life and protecting babies and telling him No, that does not make you pro-life, I looked at Kyle. He was genuinely curious. He saw a difference between a two-week-old embryo and a newly conceived child, and he wanted to know what I thought about it. I prayed a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit and leveled with him.
“You know, I actually think that’s a good question. Let’s think about this for a second, shall we? How old are you Kyle? 23? Well, before you were 16, and you were 10. You were one year old and you were newly born. You were also eight-months-developed in the womb, six-months-developed, one-month-developed. You were two-weeks developed…but you were also one-week, six-days, and five-days, and you were conceived at a particular moment in time. So I guess I would say no, because I don’t see a difference between ‘one-week–six-days-developed’ and ‘two-weeks-developed.’”
He was silent for a moment, and then answered me with a little surprise in his voice: “Wow. Thank you. I’ve never thought about it like that before.”
What followed was the most beautiful and loving conversation I’ve ever had in my life. We talked about every controversial issue that we disagreed on, and parted with hearts full and closer friends than we were before.
That conversation has had a profound impact on my life as a missionary and how I share my beliefs and faith with others. That conversation could have gone horribly wrong. I knew thinking abortion was wrong only after two weeks didn’t make Kyle pro-life. Still, I could have answered with a quick “No,” shut him down, and changed the subject. Instead, I took a moment to put myself in his shoes and think about where he was coming from.
As I meditated on this experience, I asked Jesus what made this conversation and this experience different. Aside from some major help from the Holy Spirit, the reason our conversation worked was this: we had it from a place of mutual respect and consideration. For the first time, I really listened to what the opposing side thought and felt. Because I was so open to hearing what Kyle had to say, he was open to hearing me. Though I don’t think this conversation changed his view immediately, I know it opened his mind to consider a new perspective. Instead of him walking away with a reinforced stereotype that pro-lifers hate women, he walked away respecting my opinion.
So as we near the March for Life, I’d like to encourage you to have these hard conversations. But as you’re having them, really try to listen to the other person and love them. If you do that, your conversation will bear so much more fruit than simply sharing facts that you know.
*Name has been changed.