“Can we talk?” The young stranger who approached me smiled warmly and had kind eyes.

“I’ve got a few minutes,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Are you a Christian?” he asked.

“Uh-oh, here it comes,” I thought. “I am, in my own way,” I said, guessing at what was coming next.

“Have you been born again?”

“Many times,” I replied, then added quickly, “May I ask you a question?”

His smile tightened and eyes squinted, “Sure,” he said.

“Does what you believe work for you?”

“Absolutely!” His smile relaxed. “Let me…”

I cut in. “I’m happy to hear that. You need to know that what I believe works for me, too. So, we’re both in good places.”

He blinked, then tilted his head. “But…”

I cut in again. “I know that what you believe is important to you. Don’t lose the place; but if you keep looking you’ll be surprised how some of your answers may become questions.”

He blinked, said “Thanks…I guess.”

I had to go. We shook hands and I said, “It’s important to know that acceptance is the beginning of peace.”

              +   +   +   +   +   +

     “I am glad that works for you” is a disarming phrase or attitude when it comes to dealing with differing beliefs and opinions among us. It tells the other person that one is listening, open-minded and accepting of them, hoping that they will do and be the same. It’s a statement that doesn’t slam doors.

Most everyone has beliefs and opinions about religion,  politics, the economy, racism, sexism, war, violence…the list goes on. All are potential battlegrounds at any time, in any relationship. But those who seek peace, even while disagreeing, are often wise enough to accept differences for what they are – differences, not nuclear warheads.

Acceptance often can be more important than agreement waging peace or maintaining one’s own. At least it is a starting point. When one feels respected, walls aren’t necessary and there  is an opportunity for dialogue that can lead to understanding. When one realizes they cannot change another, only themselves, they can manage to avoid non-winnable conflicts. Judgment, ridicule, or the need to be right only entrench others in what they believe or think.

Acceptance is wisdom at work; it’s a giant step beyond tolerance and a quantum leap away from war. It requires an open mind and a belief that differences and disagreements  can lead to understanding, which is essential to personal and especially, eventually, to world peace.