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#tolerancemeans proximity

Updated: Apr 8

Sarah Johns, Graduate, Brigham Young University

November 1, 2023

Bridging divides in America today is not only possible but well within our reach. Although many say that this is the most divisive time in the history of this nation, I feel optimistic about the future. I believe that we already possess everything that we need to bridge divides. There is no special formula or charismatic leader necessary to change the American narrative, all that we need are willing and able Americans to step up to the plate of compassion and love.

Sarah Johns

My journey as a peacemaker in the LGBTQ+/religious divide happened quite accidentally. I am very openly religious so I never would have guessed that there was space for me to lead on issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. The opportunity to be involved in this sacred way came through sincere relationships with members of the LGBTQ+ community and from these relationships grew understanding and a desire to make space for these friends in all places.

 I decided to use my leadership in law school to create a platform for LGBTQ+ peacemakers. Doing so has helped to foster compassion and relationship building between religious individuals, religious LGBTQ+ individuals, and non-religious LGBTQ+ individuals. There was nothing revolutionary about these efforts, they all stemmed naturally from genuine relationships.

 I argue that the solution to divides in the US are sincere relationships created by proximity to one another. Though great leaders may inspire us to get proximate with one another, the solution lies with each of us, the people. Bridging divides starts in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and hearts. Bridging divides happens when good people get to know each other and do what it takes to love one another. It does not require retreat from the ground of one’s deeply held beliefs, instead, it requires that we entreat each other to love through our differences.

 I am confident that the world is full of good people who are capable of this important feat. In my experience at BYU Law, when people are given the chance to step up with compassion, they do so in mass. Though we live in a society often defined by sides, stances, and what feel are all-or-nothing choices, we, the people, can change this reality. We can choose not to make important issues mutually exclusive by improving our understanding that each person possesses unique value systems and that that is not only okay but adds important diversity to our society. Understanding, when it is truly mutual, sponsors the kind of love and compassion that will bridge divides. I have faith in good people and trust that as we get proximate with one another, the divides between us will heal as we bandage them with compassion, understanding, and love.


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