Sadly, ideology can often drive a wedge between peoples. I choose the word ideology and don’t extend it to faith, because one often finds that profound faith – in God or in others – tends to soften and humanise people. Any person whose faith is driven by love and caring outside of politics and ideology can connect with others on a complicated and deep human level. Ideology, however, makes us brittle and single-minded. Rules and laws are great for keeping the peace, but can’t touch principles as a way of guiding our personal morals and ethics. Ideology takes away our reason – it makes us deaf to our human experience of the world to our feelings and our complicated reactions to the complicated intentions and often contradictory behaviours of others. Ideology are simple and reductionist – they distill reality into a few unreal concepts: people of a certain colour are inferior, people who don’t admire to our beliefs are misguided; poverty is the fault of those who suffer its burdens. All of these statements are ideological – they pretend to be common-sense, but once you scratch the surface, you see that life isn’t that simple. Human beings are full of contradictions – they make mistakes. They often will do something, motivated by an emotional need or sense of insecurity, and then they will regret it. We have all lashed out at another in anger, said terrible, crushing things that hurt that person deeply. We could see it in their reaction – deflation, a hung head, defeat. At first, we feel vindicated, we’ve made our point and shown him or her how wrong they were, but then as time goes on and the daylight wears out into inky night, we feel bad for having been so ungenerous. We feel we went too far, we start to see the other person’s point-of-view and our heart starts to soften. We see that perhaps that person was behaving badly, in a contradictory way, but that at heart they are full of kindness and caring. This is the beginning of the process of forgiveness and reconciliation and it feels so good. The thing is, in a world defined by ideology, there isn’t a lot of room for such feelings, for such an open attitude to our own broken-ness and our own failings. Ideology gives us certainty and simple platitudes that we can jab others with. That’s why we feel such a liberation when we put ideology behind us and see others for what they are: unique, valuable and full of possibility. Conservative or liberal, free-marketer or socialist, elitist or egalitarian – in reality none of us can be defined neatly along these lines. That’s why it feels so good when someone generously takes us for who we are. It feels even better when we do the same ourselves.