Several weeks ago, I broke from my normal theme of financial literacy to speak to the growing disregard we seem to have for one another in this country. Particularly, the great divide there seems to be in politics, ideology, and religion as it manifests itself on the internet and even in our homes and families. I did so keeping in mind the quote, “seek to understand, then to be understood”. I encourage you to read that blog post here as it gives context to this week’s blog post.
The election has come and gone, and shockingly, it did not go smoothly (note the obvious sarcasm). In fact, that statement alone could be taken as controversial given that many do not believe that the election is truly over. I do not care to make a statement as to whether they are right or wrong, but it certainly points to our continued division as a nation. However, I would like to take a step back from the election for a moment to address how we as Americans, members of communities, coworkers, people of faith, friends and families address conflict in our lives, particularly as we enter a polarizing holiday season.
Back in August I made the statement that, “When opinion and perception become identity and reality, any hope for rational, civil debate is lost.” At the time, I thought I was being quite clever, and by and large I still stand by what I wrote. However, I should also have included that this, in and of itself, is not wrong. In fact, if you genuinely believe in something worth fighting for, then it ought to be a part of your identity and is certainly reality from your point of view. In that same paragraph I wrote, “For one to concede a point to their challenger is also to call into question their worldview. That is an incredibly uncomfortable task to partake in, and so, many don’t.” This, I believe, is also true. It is incredibly uncomfortable to have your worldview challenged and picked apart. It has happened to me before as I am sure it has to all of you and, like you, I did not enjoy it.
The reaction to this prodding and challenging is often intense anger. We don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable. We don’t want our worldviews to be challenged. And most of all, we never want to be told we are wrong. There is a side of this indignation that is admirable. There is something to be said for standing your ground and fighting for the truth no matter the cost. This is especially true in a society that tells us what to believe and censors those in opposition. But this fighting for the truth should be out of love for the neighbor not out of an insatiable need to satisfy our pride.
Recent events in my immediate community have brought this into sharp focus as of late. Those leaders who I had looked to for guidance in the past now seem to be acting out of pride and self-preservation. It is hard to see that and, being the sinful man that I am, I am inclined to fight fire with fire. But again, I am reminded of this quote, “seek to understand, then to be understood”. I had the opportunity to do just that a few months back when spending time with family that I often disagree with politically. While we tried to stray away from topics of dissention, it was amazing to me the number of things that we still agree on. In many ways we care about the same things, even if our solutions to those problems differ. Those discussions do not happen if you respond to challenges and prodding in anger and fury. They do happen when you are seeking to understand and not fighting to be understood. The result of that conversation wasn’t necessarily that it changed my worldview; however, it did change my perception and understanding of their worldview.
As someone who’s worldview as a Christian can be seen quite clearly through the eyes of scripture, I will leave you with these words from II Timothy 2:23-25:
“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
Keep seeking my friends,