Confronting disagreement strengthens beliefs


photo submitted by: Maxine Whitely

Maxine Whitely ’16 along with her colleagues at Planned Parenthood holding up a banner at one of the protests against the organization.

Chapel Puckett, Managing editor, front page editor

Walking to work, or an internship, is usually an uneventful task. But not for Maxine Whitely ‘16 during her internship at Planned Parenthood this summer. After a viral video surfaced accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal body parts for profit, hundreds of protesters came to the clinic she was working at. Whitely accounts, “There were easily over a hundred people. School bus loads of people were coming out in front of our office.” Although confronting people so ideologically different from yourself can be especially jarring, confrontation–in a safe way–can tremendously strengthen one’s belief in a topic.

Whitely’s experience was to the extreme when it comes to confronting the disagreeing side. However, challenging an idea that differ from your own is necessary when forming an opinion on a topic. As Whitely phrases, “If you’re just looking at one side of an issue and you’re basing your perspective and your belief off of that, that’s not a belief, that’s just an influence.” Whitely had to stand for what she believed in while people were screaming reasons why she was inherently wrong in her beliefs.

Maxine Whitely '17 says her experience at the protest only strengthened her belief in Planned Parenthood.
photo submitted by: Maxine Whitely
Maxine Whitely ’16 says her experience at the protest only strengthened her belief in Planned Parenthood.

At Planned Parenthood, they have a strict non-engagement policy when it comes to protesters. During the days of the large protest, the interns, including Whitely, were given a sign to hold up in front of the clinic. She remembers, “We weren’t allowed to respond to any of the comments directed towards us and our organization… To let people say things that were full on insults, and not being able to defend ourselves verbally was really difficult.” Although she couldn’t defend her belief verbally to the protestors, the confrontation with an opposing side significantly strengthened her stance. “I actually felt strengthened in my belief after that,” Whitely adds.

Just like explaining a topic to someone else to strengthen your knowledge, having to defend your belief to someone who disagrees with you can fortify your own stance. However, in even the most confrontational of situations, engaging in a fight won’t allow for the strengthening of one’s own beliefs. Whitely sums up, “I never think it is worth it to engage in a fight. Because that’s when you lose ground. You’re never going to gain ground yelling. So, having a discussion, and listening to the other person…is one of the most important things that I believe everyone should do to protect their beliefs.” The real world isn’t sheltered. There are people who will inevitably disagree with your belief and if you haven’t ever had that kind of confrontation, your belief isn’t as strong as it could be.