Friends: I’m starting a “Monday Meditation.” If you’re subscribing to my blog, you’ll receive it in your inbox early Monday morning. It is a brief, practical reflection on a scripture that I hope will start your week on a positive note. My blog posts, dealing with current issues, will still come out about every 2-3 weeks. (If you’d like to receive only them, you will have that option on the subscription page.)
Retired United Methodist Bishop Kenneth Carder related a heated debate he had on the issue of capital punishment. He had spoken fervently against it, and a woman called who felt just as fervently for it.
They were going at it, each trying to convert the other, when the woman threw in the zinger: “You’d feel different if someone murdered your child.”
Everything changed in their conversation from that moment. She had expressed how intensely personal this was for her.
“Only when concern for the person took priority over the correctness of an argument did anything helpful happen,” he concluded. “Perhaps what we all need to do is hold the arguments until we have uncovered the pain beneath the issues. Unless we enter the pain and suffering of the people behind the issues, we may win the argument and lose the Gospel.”
We’re always going to disagree with someone on a hot-button issue. To get caught up in trying to convince them of their wrongness is to miss the feelings they may be masking. Pain? Anxiety? Lack of security? Lack of respect?
Connecting with them in an open, inviting manner unmasks the feelings and connects us. As James wisely advised, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.”
The next time (today?) you may feel the blood pressure rising because someone just doesn’t get it, James’ words might help. It’s not about arguments, but people. Not about debating, but empathizing.
Ultimately, only when the heart has been touched can the mind be changed.