People don’t always change for the better. If you’ve known someone a long time (or thought you knew them), it can be jarring to see them act in ways you never expected them to act. And if their views suddenly seem to be the toxic things that most hurt you, it can be devastating. How could they do this to you?
There are a million ways to react to this, and I don’t have any expertise on whether there is a ‘best’ way to do so. But when I am experiencing a tense situation with someone else, I am able to handle it best when I can successfully reconcile their new behavior with what I think their experience of these new thoughts might be. I consider what things were going on in their life that might have brought the change about.
If I’ve known a person like this a long time, I read up on whatever the thing is they’ve changed their mind on, and I reconsider. If someone I respect who used to think the same about something I feel strongly about suddenly has changed their mind, then I figure there’s a chance I may have missed or have not realized something before.
I also think about what’s going on in the world at large. Is the economy good or bad? What’s the political landscape like where they live? What entertainment is going around these days? And are there people who are having a similar change of mind on that same thing?
Whatever the thing is that is so jarring, there is always a chance that it can be too big a barrier to let a relationship continue. We can’t always heal relationships, even with our biggest effort and most sincere wish to make things okay. And when that happens, it will deeply hurt – possibly forever.
But I find that if I have honestly done the things I mentioned in this post, then no matter what I have gained the most valuable thing that I could out of that experience. I also find that I am more prepared to understand and engage with people who agree with what my friend now thinks. And when it comes to large scale politics, I find I am better able to understand what is happening and why.