I’ve watched and been involved in conversations where the truth was wielded like a weapon. The problem is that people don’t have a monopoly on the truth — which is the only assumption that could permit someone to act like that. That emphasis on truth brings with it a whole lot problems. It goes like this (apparently this originally comes from here, though I haven’t watched it at the time I wrote this):
- Someone with a different opinion must be misinformed. So we inform them.
- Someone with the same information with a different opinion must just be stupid. So we ignore them.
- Someone with the same information, decipherable intelligence and a different opinion must be evil. So we shun them.
I submit that phenomenon in itself is misinformed, stupid and (oh yeah, I’m totally going there) evil. There are many ways I could make this point, but I have to pick one, so here goes.
The Bible says:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
The deeper you think about it, the more you realise how close it is to a paradox. Everything that you do, or think, or imagine comes from some kind of understanding. We should strive to understand as much as we can. And yet the Bible here is telling us to not lean on what we know, but on a God who can’t be compressed into our knowledge.
What does this do to (or for) us? It means that every assumption is allowed to be questioned. Every single one. Pragmatically, it means that nothing we “know” should be held in superiority over what other people “know”. This is the essence of community — the community that church keeps calling itself but not living up to.
This is even more important when you’re trying to do stuff with others. Actually “important” isn’t nearly strong enough. It’s essential. People who can’t flex in what they know, or who can’t tolerate a challenge on how important what they know is, quickly find that no-one else thinks exactly the same way they do. At its furthest extent, it’s not an exaggeration to state that people like that can’t work with anyone.
My final point on this is that confrontation is a critical part of coming to greater, fuller understanding of how community works. But when confrontation is combative, conflict is exacerbated instead of resolved. Sometimes, in fact, confrontation initiates conflict rather than fixes it! Every time out, confrontation should be seen as an invitation into an open-ended conversation. It’s another one of those ends vs. means conundrums. Confrontation isn’t the end. Relationship is.
This is not a jab, an uppercut or a haymaker. It’s just the truth.