President’s Column: Lead with Connection & Empathy in All Pro-Life Conversations

Have you ever been put in a position where you had to do the right thing, even though it was extremely unpopular? My observation is that many of us use the mainstream consensus as the measure of what is morally right. We naturally feel pressure when going against the grain. However, sometimes our bold decision to speak unpopular truths can cause us to forget to show compassion and empathy.

Certainly, courage and integrity are necessary to stand up for life in this culture. We must not be afraid to speak the truth, even when we know others are forming false judgments about us. For example, they may incorrectly assume that we lack compassion, care or kindness. Though the judgments formed against us may be untrue, we should take stock to make sure that we are actually demonstrating empathy and concern for others.

Justice for All Executive Director Steve Wagner’s message at ORTL’s Together We Advocate conference this year left an impression on me. He gave an example of some pro-life activists talking with a woman on a college campus. The woman explained to them the trauma she’d been through surrounding her decision to have an abortion as a young girl. The activists were so eager to be seen as right and show they have the moral high ground that they failed to show compassion for the woman in front of them. All they were able to do was stick to their talking points.

It’s crucial for us to be well-trained about the facts, statistics and philosophy to defend life, but if we can’t let go of our need to be right and acknowledge the humanity of the person in front of us, what good does it really do? Ultimately, this lack comes across as hypocritical and makes it difficult to build trust.

Let’s deeply evaluate. Is our need to be right due to our egos? Are we primarily concerned about how others will perceive us if they think we’re on the wrong side of history, or even how other pro-lifers will see us if they think we’re not being bold enough?

We may encounter misunderstandings when we share difficult or uncomfortable truths with others. But if we lead with connection and empathy, we can build trust with those we encounter, helping them to hear and consider the pro-life message.

Written by Melody Durrett, president of the Oregon Right to Life Board of Directors.


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