I find it interesting just how far apart we have come as a nation. It does not matter what the subject matter is that we are attempting to communicate; it is almost like we are from different planets when it comes to explaining and understanding what the other person is saying. Whether it is about wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, that black lives matter or all lives matter, that the Covid-19 pandemic is real or made up, that our economy should be closed or opened, or should our schools be online or traditional? Have we become like our two political parties, incapable of finding any common ground or any basis in which we can have an intelligent discussion? It would seem that common sense is not all that common anymore.
One thing that compounds the problems facing us is that most people are extremely poor communicators. If we aimed for the wisdom that comes from God, perhaps our words and actions would have the power to heal our nation. Proverbs 16:23 tells us, “From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive.” (NLT) If we want our society repaired, we need to choose our terms carefully and speak them in a way that people will stop, turn, and listen to the wisdom contained within them. We cannot afford to divide our nation any further than it already has been by the foolish rhetoric that comes from those who refuse to listen to what others are saying.
If our goal as Christians is to seek the truth rather than to justify our own opinions, then perhaps we will find that truth is not on one side or the other but a combination of the two. Listening is crucial if you want to have a genuine conversation with someone; talking is essential, but listening is even more necessary. Carl Rogers wrote, “The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate because listening is too dangerous. The first requirement is courage, and we do not always have it.”
What each person is trying to say can be as elusive to the listener as it is to the one speaking. If we have a dispute with someone, we need to learn to stop and ask the person to restate their position so we can be sure that we have understood what they are saying. When they finish, speaking repeat their ideas and feelings back to them till they are satisfied that you know what they mean. Lois and I had found this to be crucial within our own and others’ communications and have been amazed at how many times the original speaker thought they said one thing when they said or meant something altogether different. We also found that the person listening had not even come close to understanding what the other person had said—causing us to wonder if they were even in the same room much less the same planet when the person was speaking. It would be good if we all would learn to clarify what people are saying to us by repeating it back to them and then asking them if we understood them correctly.
A legitimate and honoring conversation allows all participants a chance to express themselves. We all need to act on the premise that we have something to learn and that others might have a valid point that would be beneficial for us to consider. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV) We need to appreciate it when others take the time to show us another side of an issue. For most, the process of thinking a problem through involves dialogue.
I remember a discussion I had on whether it was proper for a football player to ‘take a knee’ during the playing of the National Anthem. My patriotic side just didn’t feel that the playing of the National Anthem was the time a player’s political views should be expressed. But a year later, when I saw the look of indifference on the face of the police officer who had his knee on the neck of George Floyd, something changed within me. Perhaps it was how the officer had his hands calmly placed in his trouser pockets, or the calloused indifference to the cries of Mr. Floyd or those who were walking by that became witnesses to what was happening. I began to understand that those who were ‘taking a knee’ in protest had experienced something that I had not. I realized that my misunderstanding had led me to form an erroneous conclusion. It wasn’t the first time I had come to a conclusion before I knew all the facts.
Come, Let Us Reason Together
You would think that it would be easy for people to sit down with one another and come up with a reasonable solution to any problem. But that isn’t always the case; scientific studies have given us the term, ‘Confirmation bias’ which is the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs while rejecting any statement that contradicts them. These studies show that we tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and overvalue evidence that confirms them. We have a habit of filtering out inconvenient truths and arguments that come from those on the opposing side. As a result, our opinions become solidified, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt or change the established patterns of thinking we have formed. In reality, we are the producers of our own ‘Fake News.’
No matter who is framing the issue, whether it be the National Rifle Association or Black Lives Matter, there are places where we can find common ground. Most people want our communities to be safe while respecting our constitutional rights. Our attitude and how we frame a question can help shape the response we will receive from others.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2:23-24. (NIV) Being kind, able to teach, and not resentful towards others when we are challenged is not easy. But the more we rely on the Holy Spirit, the more the fruits of the spirit will be evident in our lives. Then we are capable of showing them the respect and consideration that we have for their opinions and beliefs. In so doing, we are capable of speaking out with God’s love and truths as He guides us in all our discussions.
For our words to be considered a discussion and not an argument, we need to find those things we have in common rather than turn our conversation into a debate over how ‘right’ we are in comparison to how ‘wrong’ we are. This reminded me of these words from Abraham Lincoln, “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
May we be motivated by His great love for us and one another most of all and keep this in the forefront of our minds and hearts. Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (NIV)
Our prayer is that we will keep His focus our focus. Much love Always,
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