The social norm today is NOT vigorous discourse, but violent disagreement. Who is right? Who’s rights? Far from simple, the devil is in the discourse.
Like the outgoing tide meeting the incoming, two opposing views conflict. Dialogue becomes dangerous when these troubled forces collide, resulting in turbulence and turmoil, until one force finally prevails.
Everybody talks, but nobody listens. Verbiage flies in all directions. Rancor appears justified for the sake of a claimed cause. When asked, opinions seem packed with plenty of emotion, little reason, and a lot of reaction, but no reasoned response.
Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying, only the echos in my mind. Harry Nilsson
What do you do? When great passion and conviction lies behind a controversial issue, what should you do? Enter the fray or walk away? Win the day or Yield the day? Yet, must everything be reduced to one side winning and the other losing? After all, what really is accomplished by that?
So, what will it take? Attention to detail. Think… Which discourse is more fruitful:
- Talk or Listen? OR Listen and Talk?
- Talk over each other? OR Talk with each other?
- Argue points? OR Exchange thoughts, ideas, positions?
- Demand your way? OR Debate the way?
- Manipulate to control? OR Persuade to convince?
Of course, the devil is in the detail of discourse.
Our failure. Failure to pay such attention to dialogue can result in even greater division. Sadly, too many of us as Christians get caught up the social norms of the day, becoming more naturally a part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Even with one another in our churches, we can hurt more than help.
Our problem. We often share no common standard from which we both speak, and no common filter through which we listen. We may hope, or assume, that we do but frequently we don’t! So much passion and fervor is wrapped around this failure to “reason together” from common ground.
So, “Who’s rights? Who is right?” If we are to engage these questions with one another, before we speak, we must start with a common right and need: to be heard. When that right, to be heard, is first given by our first listening, then there is a much better chance for mutual understanding, whether or not in the end we agree!
Which? For me, to respond rather than react in any discourse is to be continually mindful of detail. Rather than giving the Devil his due, how about the grace of giving each other what we are due?