"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Very Recent Wisdom (or, Quotant Quotables, Part 4)

I believe a part of being capable of community myself means not only being willing to receive from others, but to give and impart as well. However, any "giving" that is done should be done with the greatest respect...

On Being Respectful—Brian McLaren (blog):

“It seems like neither Jesus nor Paul "succeeded" in challenging people to a bigger and fuller way of thinking without being considered blasphemous ... so I know it's impossible to please, help, instruct, challenge, or serve everyone. Some people just aren't willing or able to think new thoughts at any given moment. (That might sound condescending or demeaning ... but I think that socially, psychologically, intellectually, and emotionally, many people are - at any given moment - in such a bind that asking them to change their thinking is unrealistic, if not uncompassionate. The good news is that an hour, month, or year from now it might be different.)

Whether one finds McLaren’s theology, work, and question-evading (or redirecting, if you prefer) abilities inspiring or threatening, perhaps at least his insight on the human situation and our capacity for change (and the pace at which we change) is something we can rally around.

His words are a good reminder. When I, or maybe you, feel strongly about something, especially a way of thinking, believing, understanding, doing, that is different from others, it’s hard not to be a pit preachy and even pushy about urging others to “come around” and see it like we do. McLaren thoughtfully reminds me that, as a rule, people do not drastically change overnight. And to expect them to do so seems to show disregard for their context and situation, maybe a lack of compassion and sensitivity, or even a failure to understand some aspect of what it means to be human.

People may be wrong about something. A lot of people are wrong. But I think we are “bound” to our way of understanding to a great enough degree that it’s probably more often a delicate, slow process of transformation, and it’s probably going to be disrespectful to expect someone to change their views more quickly than they are ready for.

Even if we think we’re right about something, it probably took us months or years to get to the understanding we have now. You can try to persuade someone in a 15 minute conversation (as I’ve tried), but to try to do so can feel a bit violent, abrasive, and usually will not bear the immediate fruit we hope it will. The Holy Spirit works, yes, but I think that work is often very subtle and slow.

I’ve sensed that no matter how good and true and helpful our views seem to us, often people need more space than I often give, more appreciation and understanding of their views than I normally possess, and more willingness on my part to listen without sword in hand, less prepared to defend my territory, more prepared to love with gentleness, openness, compassion, patience, and respect.

But…that doesn’t mean others won’t eventually come around and see the light. It also doesn’t mean we won’t eventually come around and see the light.

1 comment:

Krysti Emerson said...

This is Awesome Matt! It took me many years to learn this little truth, and still I often forget. The Holy Spirit does a much better job of convincing people than I do. Being respectful and understanding is so much better.