The liberal and conservative in all of us

Fred Cavaiani

It is convenient to label people. Then we don't have to think deeper about what is really happening. If I call you a name or categorize you as a liberal, here are names that are often attributed to being liberal: Pacifist, Leftist, Anti-American, Dependant, Godless, Immoral. If I call you a conservative, these are names that are often labeled on conservatives: Rigid, Judgmental, Hard-hearted, Bigoted, Warmonger. Most of the labels we attribute to liberals or conservatives are false. Every person is liberal: open, positive, caring, compassionate, and inclusive on many issues. Every person is also a conservative: careful, prudent, wise, responsible, respectful and religious on many issues. We have forgotten that there are many positive qualities about being liberal in life and there are many positive qualities about being conservative in life. To have a well- balanced life we need to have both liberal and conservative values. We need to practice and possess in our own personal lives both conservative and liberal values.

When we attribute negative qualities to the terms of liberal and conservative we block out truth. The truth is that we need liberalism and conservatism. It is what keeps every good political, religious and social movement in life going forward. I saw a quote the other day that went like this: "Every time there is a major decision on an issue, the news reports go something like: 'The Democrats scored a major political victory today' or 'The Republicans soundly defeated the Democrats today.' WELL, forget the Democrats and Republicans - the real question that needs to be asked when the dust settles each and every time is: 'Did the American people win or lose today?'"

A happy society and a happy person need to have both liberal and conservative values. I need to be open in a liberal way to help the poor and downtrodden. I need to be wise in a conservative way to prudently make decisions that truly benefit the emotional and physical welfare of other people.

When national figures label people negatively by using the term liberal or conservative they unfairly taint the meaning of liberal and conservative. Every person should be proud to be both liberal and conservative.

The reason we have different political parties is to remind each other that any decision made has to consider both liberal and conservative values. Both are needed to make good decisions. It is not genuinely liberal to insist that my way of looking at things is the only right way. This contradicts the meaning of being liberal or open. It is not genuinely conservative to insist that my way of seeing things is the only way. It undermines the meaning of being conservative, which is to be careful and wise.

A careful and wise person always looks at both sides of an issue with genuine attentiveness.

Somehow we have gotten the idea that it is correct to attack the personalities of other people with absolute no basis for the truth. We universalize our judgments about other people.

It is not conservative to condemn the personality of other people or the personality of world leaders. That is just rude and ignorant. It is not liberal to avoid talking with you because I don't like you. This is just avoidance.

A true liberal-conservative person will be caring and kind to everyone while maintaining eternal values of wisdom, compassion and prudence. A true liberal-conservative person will want to enact laws and rules that will benefit all the people of a county, both rich and poor. A true conservative-liberal person will respect those who see things differently and dialogue with that person with an open and understanding heart.

It is not liberal or conservative to condemn and label negatively those who disagree with us. This is just being an uncaring and unfair human being. Liberals are not godless, immoral and irresponsible. Conservatives are not rigid, uncaring, and personally and religiously judgmental. There are rigid, condemning and judgmental persons who use God as an authority to condemn other people who disagree who see things differently. There are atheistic, agnostic persons who condemn church going people as stupid, rigid and uncaring. Both types of persons have their own personal viewpoints which have nothing to do with being liberal or conservative. These viewpoints come from an internal rigid personality which has blocked itself from having an open heart and open mind.

We all need to be both liberal and conservative in our journey through life. Whether I am a Democrat or a Republican I need to have an open and kind heart and mind. I need to look at life with a discerning and wise viewpoint. I cannot judge those who do not share my beliefs as people who are not good or kind or wise. If I am an atheist or agnostic I have no right to judge those who have religious belief system as caring or unkind. If I am a religiously observant person I have no right to judge those who do not share religious beliefs as immoral or lacking in conscience or internal values.

The true liberal-conservative or conservative-liberal person could be a good Democrat or a good Republican. But both values will be found in each person no matter to what party they belong. Both parties, at their best, need to respect the values of the other. What bothers us most about other people is usually something within ourselves that we do not want to look at. Once we admit this we can get on with living a life which consists of the best in being liberal and the best in being conservative. We need to realize that we need to possess both values to have a successful personal life and a successful governmental and national life.

Embrace both the liberal and conservative values within your own personality and treasure these values. It is important to realize that we all need to have both values and in fact we all do have both values. We just need to admit it and accept it. Then we can treat others with compassion, love and respect. And the world gets to be a better place to live.

Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, Jan 19, 2016


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