Yesterday I wrote a blog post on worship wars. A friend wrote a comment that captured the essence of what I was writing about perfectly. He wrote in a tongue-in-cheek” manner – “Well obviously, we could just end the worship war if you agree that I’m right. Duh.”
Yeah, so true. And unfortunately so many people buy into that way of thinking. Recently I’ve seen this way of thinking rear its head on a few recent news items – the controversy over Black Lives Matters vs. All Lives Matter, Kim Davis and Donald Trump. Now granted, these are pretty divisive issues for most people. I can’t recall hearing a good conversation on any of these topics between two people who disagree on them. When people who disagree about any these happen to be on the same planet, it’s usually just a debate where emotions run high and people end up saying things that they probably regret later and yet still feel justified in tearing the other person apart because, well, you know, they were right. And of course, each side starts with the belief that they are right and the other side is wrong. Why else would you argue, right? And if you know you are right, then there is no need to take any other view into consideration. Unfortunately I don’t see many people approaching such discussions with an intent on hearing a different perspective or moving closer to truth which may make a person reconsider what they thought was true. I mean, you could still be right, but at least you’d hear how someone came to different conclusion from you and why it makes sense to them. Listening doesn’t mean you have to adopt the other position.
At any rate, we humans are so concerned with being right that often we do or say things that actually hurt our own cause. Here’s an example.
Race – specifically the controversy over Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. Here’s what I’ll say about this. Pointing out something someone said that you don’t like by disparaging the person that said it is, well, counter productive. I have read comments of people who are critical of the All Lives Matter supporters labeling these people as pea-brained, ignorant, dumb, stupid, etc. I’ve read comments of people who are critical of the Black Lives Matter supporters labeling these people as racist, dangerous, not caring, etc. None of those are exaggerations. Way to bring people in to see things from your perspective. And we wonder why there is a racial divide? If respect for your opinion on this is what you seek, then it might be wise to start by offering respect to those you disagree with. You might actually gain someone who is willing to listen. The golden rule can work in a debate – speak unto others the way you want to be spoken with.
I think the same could be said about a number of topics – certainly Kim David and Donald Trump. Of course, we might come across people who have no interest in talking about any of these topics in a reasonable manner. You can’t control other people or how they interact with the world. What should you do? Well, you could listen anyway to see what you can learn. Thank the person for sharing and move on with your life. You could just walk away, especially if you know the topic is one that will spark an emotional response from yourself. You could offer compassion to the person. You could try challenging yourself to see if you can understand where the person is coming from and how their way of thinking might make sense to them. You could show the person love and respect. You could leave them with some questions to consider – not attacking questions, but what if questions that might get them to see that there are other possibilities. There’s actually many options available. You have to determine what is best in the situation. The point is this – it’s not always best to try to change someone’s mind or opinion on something. Especially if they aren’t open to the possibility that there is another way.
How can you grow crops in a field that is bone dry? You can’t. First you have to prepare the soil to receive the seeds. Debate works the same way. Assess the situation. Is the other person even open to hearing a different way of looking at the topic, or are they so convinced that they are right? If they are sure they are right and there is no possibility there could be another way, it is not best to convince them otherwise, they will just get defensive. The first step is to create an environment where an open and honest discussion could take place. That happens by listening and showing respect and gaining someone’s trust. When that happens, the person might actually seek out your opinion on a subject. Offer it gently – be gentle like you would with a new crop just sprouting through the ground.
This I know – If we want respect, we have to give it. If we want to be heard, we have to listen. If we want love, we have to be willing to love the un-lovable. If we want to move towards the truth, we have to consider the possibility that we may be wrong in some way.