What to Do When You Encounter New Beliefs in College

College campuses are full of diversity, and that means that you’ll meet people with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs than you have. You’re bound to run into people you disagree with and some who even challenge your own beliefs.

This can feel scary at first, but it doesn’t have to. Learning how to communicate peacefully with people who disagree with you is an important part living in the world. Having your faith challenged can also strengthen your relationship with God as you develop a better understanding of why you believe what you believe.

Still, encountering different beliefs can be a challenge, so we put together a few ways to help you overcome it.

  1. Develop a Foundation of Deep Beliefs

The most helpful thing for you to do as you encounter new beliefs is to build a solid foundation on what you believe. 

Study scripture. Pray. Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos from reputable Christian thinkers. There’s a lot of junk on the internet, but there’s also some great resources out there that can help you know why you believe what you believe about God.

If you have never read books like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Knowing God by J.I. Packer, or Know Why You Believe by Paul Little, these are great places to start. 

  1. Respectfully Listen

Disagreement often quickly leads to division, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Instead of getting angry at someone’s perspective, you can hear them out. Ask questions and try to understand where they’re coming from. You’ll likely find that they have deep-rooted reasons to believe what they believe about the world, humanity, or God just like you do. 

Keep in mind that listening doesn’t mean approving, though. You don’t have to accept their beliefs as true just because you’ve heard them talk about it. Listening simply means that you’ve given them a chance to express their own views without bulldozing them with corrections and counterpoints. That’s not a conversation. That’s an argument. 

  1. Respectfully Share

Remember that the person on the other side of every conversation is another human being. Just as you can listen respectfully, you can also share respectfully. 

This means controlling your temper. It means patience in explanations and honesty in your uncertainties. It means, ultimately, loving your neighbor as you love yourself and treating them how you’d expect to be treated. 

The concept here is simple. The practice takes hard work and prayer, especially when the hearer doesn’t offer you the same kind of respect you offered them. You’ll naturally want to raise your voice, to defend yourself with harsh language and insults. Resist this temptation. Pray that the Spirit gives you patience and empowers you to communicate in a loving way. 

  1. Lean on Your Christian Community

Encountering different beliefs on your own will lead to discouragement and frustration. You may start to doubt your own beliefs or feel alone. This is part of why it’s so important to find a good, Christian community that you can trust. They’ll remind you that you’re not alone.

A Christian community can also help you when your own beliefs are challenged. Don’t be afraid to talk about your doubts or questions. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are there to help you through those tough times. 

Lastly, your Christian community offers you an opportunity to support your Christian friends in their own difficulties. Your friends will face the same challenges you will, and they’ll need others to come alongside them, too. This is the beautiful give and take that happens in community. Sometimes you receive the love and support of the others, sometimes you offer it back to them. 

Have you experienced challenges from differing beliefs? How did you handle it in the past? Leave your responses in the comments!

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