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Disagreements

Disagreements

Monday, October 8, 2012 –– Week of Proper 22, Year 2

William Dwight Porter Bliss and Richard Theodore Ely, Priest, 1926; Economist, 1943

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)

Psalm 106:1-18 (morning) // 106:19-48(evening)

Hosea 14:1-9

Acts 22:30 – 23:11

Luke 6:39-49

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” said Jesus.

I often find it helpful to read things that are written by people that I’m pretty sure I disagree with. There is a two-fold benefit. First, I might gain some insight into what makes them click. What are their values? Usually, if I can understand their values and motivations, I can find some places of connection and empathy. I think it was F. D. Maurice who said that people are usually right in what they affirm and often wrong in what they deny. Often, when I discover what it is that someone disagreeable is affirming, I actually affirm the same values. Then our discussion is more about strategy or effectiveness. We’re closer to working together. Understanding another’s values helps us make constructive connections.

The second benefit to learning from people whom we disagree with is that they might help us see the log in our own eye. I’m usually blind to my own blindness. It takes someone else, someone coming from a different perspective to me see what I don’t yet see. Reading the works of people who oppose what I think helps me understand the flaws and weaknesses in my own thought.

Occasionally I run across someone whose point of view is deeply antithetical to mine and seems fundamentally flawed. It is easy to allow a lot of energy to get displaced into imaginary conflict with that other person. I can create dialogues in my mind where I correct and defeat the wrong thinker. I can get wrapped up in taking the speck out of another’s eye, especially if the other is not present to get the benefit of my wisdom (or talk back to me). Much of that energy seems wasted, disturbing and militant.

A couple of things can help me disengage from these internal dialogues, if I will allow myself. First, it is good to remember that every wrong-headed person has (or had) a mother who loves them. That’s a way of saying that there is good in everyone. Somebody loves the person whom I find troubling. How can I see that person through those loving eyes?

Second, it usually helps if I can learn what it is that the person I disagree with values. What does this person affirm? Often I find that we have significant places of agreement. Sometimes I find that I may agree with 100% of the values of another but disagree only in ways of implementing those values. Sometimes I find we have a common purpose in nearly everything, but we disagree on one. Great. That means we are fundamentally allies. How lonely (and crazy) would any of us be if we expected everyone to agree with us on everything?

It usually sheds light on a conflict when you can ask non-anxiously, what is the other afraid of? It is our fears that drive us into much craziness, and all of us carry fears to some degree or another. The religious journey is an invitation for us to release our fears. After all, most of us fear what does not threaten. Ultimately we are completely secure — fearless freedom is a gift from God — ultimate security, love, and power. Whenever we can shed light on our fears or on another’s, we are in the healing business. Everybody could use liberation from fear. We’re all together in that same boat. Many of our conflicts are merely the projection of our fearful shadows onto others. How can we help each other become less fearful? How can we bring light instead of more shadow into the world’s fearful conflicts?

Finally, it helps to separate issues from people. Anyone who has loved another knows that it is possible to disagree and remain in love. We can agree to disagree and remain deeply connected. The alternative is isolated universes of singularities or blind battles of group-think. Good people disagree. They disagree about things that they hold deeply. And they are still people, fellow human beings with mothers who love them. I know that my mother disagrees with some of the things I think, but I also know, she loves me. She loves me completely. Anybody who disagrees with me needs to know that. And I need to remember my enemy’s momma too.

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