Between a Rock and a Hard Place: or Scalia’s Dissent on DOMA

Yesterday’s post was about how personal relationships can change our beliefs, and how one man’s care for a small child shifted his perspective on same sex marriage.  

ImageBut the other side of that same question is this:  What the heck is going on in the brains of people who seem to choose being “right” (according to them) over relationships.  We all know people who hold tightly to their beliefs at any cost, including loved ones.  Many a child has been disowned, many a parent cut off, and a friend de-friended, when they come out (And it’s not just being gay – there are lots of reasons over the generations relationships have been ruptured in order to preserve being right.  See “Fiddler on the Roof,” for a classic example.)  

This morning’s Story Corp on NPR’s Morning Edition is about one mom whose mind was changed, but only after years of sending her gay son to “conversion therapies,” namely, Exodus, designed to transform one’s unacceptable sexuality to acceptable.  (Listen/read their story here: http://www.npr.org/2013/06/28/196269042/for-a-mom-learning-to-accept-a-gay-son-was-nonnegotiable)

Thankfully, she did change.  But many, many people don’t, in spite of how much they love their son, daughter, sister, father, friend, etc. etc.  In my circles, it used to be called “love the sinner; hate the sin.”  (So glad we seem to be leaving THAT definition of “sin” in the dust.)  But why do people hold on to beliefs that so clearly rupture relationships?

It’s not so simple as logic over emotion.  We all have a set of core beliefs we “know” are right.  Ask yourself how you “know.”  Whatever your brain answers, it is an “after-the-fact” answer.  What we “know” to be true is something that “feels” true, then we put words around it, even boxing ourselves into illogical corners.  We all do this.  Yes, you do, too.  So do I.  It’s again, how our brains are wired. It’s why we a: believe some crazy things and b: are convinced we are right.   And so for those adamantly opposed to what the Supreme Court has decided about same sex marriage, it’s pitting reptilian emotion (the feeling of being right) against reptilian emotion (the feeling of care for our loved one.)  That’s quite a conflict, and when the brain weighs the two, it’s clear which one would require more work establishing more neural connections.  And the more our beliefs are shored up by those around us we trust, the deeper those “certainty-feelings” run, and the more “rewards” for sticking to our guns.

Obviously, it’s very complicated, so stayed tuned for more explanations for why we change our minds and why we don’t, and why we’re convinced we’re right even when we’re dead wrong.  In the meantime, kindness.  You probably don’t want to be inside that other person’s brain, as they gear up for a lost cause.  

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