The Problem with Proselytizing

An interaction I had last night with a good guy who I had happened to disagree with on a few issues reminded me of an important concept.

When we act to proselytize the other, act to make sure everyone has our religious or ideological or political convictions, act as if there were no alternative way of living life…

We’re not just being closed-minded, and colossally arrogant, and pushy, and ideological.

It’s far worse than that.

Every single person is unique, different, special, of course within a range of variation. We pay that concept lip-service and then we act as if others are interchangeable backdrops.

Every single person has had a completely unique and non-replicated set of life circumstances, perceptions and events. Perhaps when we understand more about psychology and neurology we’ll come to find that a lot of this apparent noise doesn’t actually alter people that much, that there’s certain repeated patterns and that some of the apparent differences are actually trivial. But it seems that, for now, every person has had a totally unique journey through time and space.

What that means is that every person has a lifetime of experiences that have brought them to a point where they believe whatever they believe.

When we try to convert the other, what we’re doing is saying, “My lifetime of experiences is better than yours. I not only have more wisdom, but such an immense surfeit of that wisdom that in this interaction between us I am going to learn nothing and you are going to change your life”.

Christians proselytizing and evangelizing door-to-door, radically and extremely political people… It’s all the same.

And it’s all born from a lack of true love.

When we really love each other, we want each other to succeed.

I want everyone I care about, which is most people I meet, to succeed at what they want to do. Find their passions and dreams.

That means we have to find a way of helping each other find and walk a totally unique path.

I would not be able to do the work that I do if I had ever found myself in a moment of weakness or despair embracing Christianity or Islam, or been browbeaten into changing my political opinion for fear of losing friends.

We are hurting each other immeasurably each time we convert someone else into a little ideological carbon copy of ourselves.


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