01/31/2013 01:48 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Scouting Tolerance

As a child, I was taught that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Dad's particular corollary -- pick your battles, as it's not always worth it to be "right" -- has served him well in the Army, so I've long aspired to apply its wisdom to my life. For this reason, it always made a sort of intuitive sense to seek mutual understanding and deescalate conflict rather than appeal to the choir in a scorched-earth crusade for feel-good "authenticity." There is little value in a crown of bitterness, however righteous.

This philosophy of living, it turns out, is wonderfully conducive to maintaining close, mutually edifying relationships with many people whose political and ideological priorities would, I strongly suspect, be the ruin of America (and Western civilization) if ever realized. I have well-meaning and misguided friends who oppose gay marriage, distrust the military, hate guns, disdain football, loathe the South, think highly of France, want ever higher taxes, and blaspheme the Southeastern Conference. I don't need my loved ones to agree with me on all that's right and true, and I have defended those whose positions I reject. I just need the people I care about to be willing to hear me and understand where I'm coming from. Where consideration is given, it is returned.

Accordingly, I'm not terribly surprised by the development of what might seem an unlikely friendship between LGBT activist Shane Windmeyer of Campus Pride and noted evangelical Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A. If there is any virtue in "tolerance" and "diversity", you can find it in this:

Dan, in his heart, is driven by his desire to minister to others and had to choose to continue our relationship throughout this controversy. He had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as "the blessing of growth." He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well. [My emphasis]

And thus a chasm was bridged.

Just last summer, as another bitter presidential campaign launched into orbit, the Boy Scouts closed a two-year study by reaffirming their ban on gay scouts and leaders. By then, there was something resembling growing public consensus in favor of including gays, and both presidential candidates were on record supporting that consensus. Still, the Boy Scouts were primarily backed by religious organizations that preferred the status quo, and so it held. Now, however, it seems that policy might change, after all, much to the chagrin of some -- though certainly not all -- of the faithful.

If the Boy Scouts decide to shed their national requirement to exclude gays, there will not necessarily be a sudden, massive change-of-heart within the ranks any more than Dan Cathy is now a gay rights activist because of his friendship with Shane Windmeyer. While those troops that have long been gay-friendly will be able to come out of glass closets, others will be allowed to maintain their locally decided ban on gays. In short, a new world won't be built overnight. What will matter is that fewer members will be rejected for being who they are, and religious conservatives will not be compelled to contravene their values. In an ideal world, people from various perspectives will find new occasions and opportunities to understand one another, to everyone's benefit. Even if not all minds ever fully change, there is hope in the possibility of harmony emerging from where once there thrived grievance and resentment.

Wherever you fall on this or any issue, there is often a world of difference between being wrong and being evil. We don't have to all agree on the content or path to a better world of enduring fulfillment and mutual respect, but we can at least acknowledge that we each strive for one. If nothing else, may we always have at least that much in common.

We can agree to disagree.