It’s hard to associate with someone regularly and not discuss politics because politics touch almost every aspect of our lives. When you have a friend who thinks differently than you, it can be difficult and, at times, infuriating. My best friend and I share many differences in political opinions, but it wasn’t until the day I lost his friendship that I learned to value him as an individual.

I have had people come and go throughout my life, but one individual has always been a constant: my best friend. Ever since I can remember, my best friend has been my human diary—the one person I could vent my fears and frustrations to without ridicule or judgment.

A few months ago, I lost his friendship because I allowed myself to be offended by a difference of political opinion and abruptly terminated our friendship. Going months without talking to my best friend was an awful feeling. It can best be described as grieving the death of a family member. It took everything I had in me to reach out, make amends, and acknowledge the error of my ways. Thankfully, he accepted my apology, and he and I have been working on improving our communication ever since.

I wasn’t ready to terminate a friendship of almost twenty years because my best friend disagreed with some of my political views. My relationship with him is far more important to me than being right all the time. When it comes to our political differences, we have learned to disagree with civility.

Although extremely difficult in practice, admitting you are wrong is vitally essential to preserving friendships.

My best friend’s political beliefs are a small fraction of who he is. They don’t define him as a person nor what he means to me. I failed to realize that until the day I lost his friendship.

A good friend knows all your best stories, but a best friend has lived them with you. A best friend is someone who has seen you at your worst and still saw great potential in you. A best friend is someone who has laughed with you, cried with you, and sometimes hated you for stupid reasons. But through all the ups and downs you both have shared, you still care about each other unconditionally.

My best friend is someone who knew me before I hit puberty, who was only a phone call away when I was having problems at home as a teenager, and who was a listening ear when I struggled with my self-worth after becoming a young single mother. He was the one friend who would lecture me on not jumping into a relationship with the first man who noticed how “pretty” I was just because I was lonely; sadly, I never really took that advice. Did he hate me for it? Absolutely! But, he was also right there to console me ( without judgment ) every time my heart broke. He was the one person who, despite my many flaws, still saw the good in me when I couldn’t even notice that in myself.

Several years ago, during one of the darkest moments of my life, my best friend saved me. At the time, I was a young single mother battling depression. I was recently divorced and hated my life. I was alone in a state that, at that time, was unfamiliar to me. I had no real friends, no family support, and felt my life would never improve from there. One night, after my three-year-old son went to bed, I called my best friend. I opened up to him and told him, “I can’t do this anymore.” I told him I was tired of fighting and tired of feeling sad, lonely, and afraid. He listened to me for several hours as I cried inconsolably. He stayed on the phone with me until I stopped crying. He reminded me that I had someone in my life that still needed me, my son. On that same night, after talking on the phone with him, I held my son as he slept in bed and realized that it wasn’t my time to go. I realized that I had to keep fighting for my child. That’s the life-changing power of having a genuine friend in your life. If it weren’t for his friendship that day, this article would cease to exist.

The difference between a close friend and a random person on social media is that you don’t judge a close friend based on a single issue the two of you may disagree on. Differences of opinion shouldn’t devalue a friendship that took a lifetime to build. I rather have one friend of great value than many friends with little to no value to me.

Although challenging, I think it’s essential to have friends who think differently than you do. Productive and respectful conversations with individuals that share different political viewpoints allow us to innovate and move forward as a society.

In life, we must learn to respond and not react. A response is a conscious effort to take a step back, review the situation, and figure out a solution. A reaction is an emotional, subconscious decision made without consideration for the consequences.

How can we grow as individuals if we’re not willing to have someone challenge our worldview?