Seek to Understand

August 25, 2020

This week I want to talk about something that has been on mind a lot lately. Fair warning, this has little to do with finance so if you would prefer not to read my rambling stream of consciousness then I suggest that you click away now! This year has been weird to say the least (or unprecedented, unpredictable, disastrous, monumental, etc. Pick your favorite). Between the virus fears, various protests, rioting and the upcoming election, it seems that everyone has something to say especially on social media!

                I have absolutely no problem with people voicing their opinion publicly on social media or any other medium. I do it every week in the form of this blog! What I do have a problem with is the arrogance of some to assume that they are experts on a topic and to cling so tightly to that misguided belief that no one else’s opinion matters. They come to a conclusion based on their own independent research (i.e. blog posts and mainstream media headlines) and then commit to that presupposition in so much that it becomes a part of their identity.

                What we are seeing now on social media, in the news and our country in general, is millions of people with varying degrees of hubris. People who know without a shadow of a doubt that they alone hold the truth and everyone else is “the other”. This is true of every demographic in this great nation regardless of status, location, race, gender, or political affiliation. This cancer has snuck its way into our homes, families, businesses, communities, and churches.

                This affliction has found a home in social media where it has spread like a plague and become impossible to ignore. Family members, friends, and strangers alike, argue bitterly in a bid to outlast their virtual opponent and declare victory as the moral and intellectual superior. These battles are most often fought with insults and personal attacks on the adversary’s intelligence as opposed to logical debate and civil conversation. It is tragically ironic really, claiming the moral high ground while smearing someone’s deeply held beliefs and basic intelligence.

                But if that wasn’t enough, those with the loudest voices are often the most misinformed. They have so committed to their cause that nothing can change their minds. Often, this takes the form of allegiance to a political party or dogma. Regardless of new information or research, “their side” can do no wrong. As I mentioned before, this conviction becomes deeply ingrained in the individual’s identity. It becomes the creed that they live by. It is much more comfortable to commit to a stance than to face the fear of the unknown. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” would be applicable here but bliss isn’t really the right word. Its more like righteous indignation.

                When opinion and perception become identity and reality any hope for rational, civil debate is lost. That is why so many of these online comment threads devolve into “wailing and gnashing of teeth”. 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.

                I think that it is important to note here that I am in no way immune to this way of thinking. I will be the first to admit that my deeply held beliefs and principles affect the way in which I form opinions about current events. But the problem is when we become so blinded by our own surmising’s that we are unable to, as the saying goes, “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. One of deeply held beliefs is my faith in God.  It is my primary lens through which I see the world. A few weeks ago our pastor preached on Psalm 19:14:

                “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

His sermon, in reference to this passage, was regarding how we respond to crises and upheaval in our lives specifically when it comes to the crazy events of our day. From a faith perspective, this means making sure that our thoughts, words and deeds are in line with how God has called us to live as his people. When considering how to respond to the various conflicts in our society, my humble advice again comes from scripture: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.