I used to think I knew what I stood for, what my make up as a person was. As the years go by, I’ve realized I’m not what I used to be. I have never wanted to be perceived with labels, but I knew where I fell. A conservative on the right, not the far right but let me make it clear that my views were the only correct views.

In total honesty I was always wanting to be the first one out of the gate with my opinion—to get my response out there. My response was the only way I could see, and I wanted to make sure people knew where I stood and why they must also feel exactly the same way—on the right side of an issue, my side. 

My first Living Room Conversation was part of a church gathering. I didn’t want to go, but I want to support what’s happening in my community, so I went. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t really listening to other people. I also learned that if you just sit back and listen, it’s interesting.

Really listening, not just formulating your next comment or argument takes time to learn. You’re probably not to going to get it right the first time. I didn’t. We all have bad habits of a lifetime, and we’re all in this together—in this life, this world, this country, this political system.

We may not like or agree with other people, but if we change our mindset and look for the good—we’re going to find it—whether we admit it or not.

I was on the conservative side, but now I can’t begin to put a label on myself. If you ask me where I am or what I believe, I’ll tell you I’m listening to the issue. Having to choose a candidate is the hardest thing. I don’t want someone else to do my thinking, but I don’t need to get my opinion out there.

I’ve been part of at least 20 Living Room Conversations.  The most fascinating thing is that the topic doesn’t interest me at all. I usually don’t want to go, so I take other people with me. I sometimes gripe about going on the way there. That’s not the conversation on the way home. The seat belt goes on, and it begins…”You know, I never knew…” and then it goes from there. As I move to a different phase in my life with more time it is my hope to spend more time with Living Room Conversations. 

Bruce Friesen is Parish Administrator at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, California. He has been a champion for the practice in church and civic communities for almost two years and has participated in more than 20 Living Room Conversations.