This year, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m doing a year-long internship at my church. I absolutely love it but so far the most challenging part of it has been the people. My church is extremely diverse (across culture, ethnicity, class, nationality and everything) which is one of the attributes that drew me to it. However, diversity has a tendency to bring friction – in a positive and sometimes negative way. Truthfully, I love arguing and disagreeing because, when all parties are keeping an open mind and genuinely listening, you can always learn something.
KEY PHRASE: ALL parties are keeping an OPEN MIND and genuinely LISTENING.
The amount of discussions I’ve gotten into with people who treat their opinions as fact is awfully concerning. These open discussions quickly turn to debates because the counter-opinion refuses to listen to me, acknowledge my side or wait for reason. Once they’ve given their opinion, they end the discussion because they’ve stated their point.
This isn’t a problem exclusive to the Christian world but it is the sphere in which I find myself most so it’s what I will address. I have seen, time and time again, Christians memorise scripture or receive a revelation from God and assume that that scripture (often out of context) or revelation applies to the entire world. Often, your conviction is applicable to only you. Share it. Don’t enforce it.
Very bluntly put: Just because you have an opinion/ conviction/ revelation, doesn’t mean you NEED to share it.
I am a christian and a feminist who happens to be quite vocal about what upsets me. This means I get into many arguments with Christians who don’t agree with feminsm and also are quite vocal. What tends to happen in these disagreements is that the non-feminist will shout me down with their revelation and quote and out of context scripture. When I try to explain my side, I get shut down and disregarded. THIS IS NOT OKAY.
It is a biblical principle to be quick to listen and slow to speak (see James). And it’s been an uncomfotable challenge that God has given me this year. But the more God has made me aware of this the more I’ve noticed that few people do this. I won’t go around pretending that I never do this, but I know when to admit that I was wrong. It’s not always fun to be wrong but is your pride and opinion really better than humility and learning?
When you clearly listen to someone else’s opinion and disagree, you allow room to for both parties to grow. Once you disregard someone else’s opinion, you create room for anger to flourish. Learn to disagree without disregarding. Learn to listen more and speak less. You might just be amazed by what you could learn…