One of the rarest things I have experienced in my neither greatly short, nor particularly long life, are people who I can account “kindred spirits.”
This is rather amazing when you consider that I ought to have a great deal in common with folks who are Christians on the basis that we claim Christ as our Savior and Lord.
It would be one thing if the people in question were in disagreement with me only on minor and insignificant matters, but alas, this is far from the case.
I find that, if people are willing to discuss the more important things that one ought to consider, I am substantially more likely to find myself in disagreement with them, than in accord.
It’s a certain thing, that in any given situation when dealing with opinions and beliefs, there are but three possible “outcomes.” These outcomes are based on the idea that two people disagree (if they agree, there are but two, both can be correct, or both incorrect). In the case of disagreement either one is correct, the other is correct, or neither is.
Obviously, my preference is to be the one who is correct. Often though, my realization is that I’m not that person. How often am I in the “other camp?” My profound hope is that it’s not something that happens regularly, but the reality is, I shouldn’t be terribly surprised to hear it happens more frequently than not.
There is a very propitious result of that realization though–that is, the recognition that I’m certainly incorrect at times (again, maybe more times than not). That end, is that I am pretty much constantly a person willing to listen to what others have to say.
The logic behind this–besides that I know well that I may be in error–is simple. Broken down it is that if people are willing to listen to what others have to say, it is entirely possible that they will do one of two things, either they will teach or they will learn.
As I get older, I find I am more likely to be in the “teacher’s position” than in the learner’s. The reason for this, is that I have had a great deal of time to consider what I say and the beliefs that “back” what I utter.
To be clear though, that by no means indicates that I am not open to learn–to be educated in my error.
There is a liberation in my position the like of which, I would love for others to come to know. Since I’m aware of the possibility that I believe and espouse error, I can hear the statements of others–the expression of their beliefs–from a different perspective than I fear many others possess.
I can be civil, courteous, nice, friendly and–dare I say it–even even loving to my fellows even when we disagree.
There are certainly beliefs that can damage or even destroy a friendship, but believe it or not, for me, the “set thereof” is quite small and very severe in nature.
The point here, is that I have yet to count a person as someone with whom I am not a friend over disagreement, and that’s pretty much regardless the realm.
It is unfortunate to me, that there are many folks who do not deal with life in this way. They allow the fact that they substantially disagree with others to cause the termination of their relationship with them, even when they can civilly disagree with them and remain friends.
For my part, the attitude that prevails is, “We can disagree most strenuously, but still, we can maintain our friendship.”
I acknowledge freely, that this is not absolutely always the case. At the same time though, I say again that I have found very few instances where differences in belief led to the needful dissolution of a relationship, and most particularly of a friendship.
Whether our disagreement is religious, political, philosophical, or in some other arena matters little, if at all.
The point here, in my view, is that if one decides he or she is going to do his or her best to treat others with respect and civility, disagreement aside, his or her examination of those disagreements can be at least interesting, and at best life changing.
When on the other hand, people choose to be either offended by, or offensive in, the expression of beliefs, the result is virtually always unfortunate.
Worse yet, when a person refuses to discuss his or her beliefs in the aforementioned areas.
If you refuse to explain to me how you have come to believe what you’ve come to believe, I can neither readily learn from you, nor easily teach you.
If I’m unable to learn from you, I’m a poorer human as a result.
The other side of the coin–if I am unable to teach you–it is you who loses out.
I would that more people viewed life in this way. Much of our time should be spent either teaching or learning. What makes this even more interesting is, the person I teach in one moment is very likely to be a person from whom I learn in the next.
If I start from the place of understanding that says, “Even the inexperienced and those without massive intellects are often worthy educators.” my whole life changes.
I may still decide that such a one will not have a great deal to impart, but that doesn’t by any stretch mean they have nothing of which they are aware that I am not.
As such, it always behooves one to be–as is the Biblical admonition (paraphrasing)–quick to listen and slow to speak.
This is a learned art, and one at which I am much further from expertise than I would like.
In the end though, the “final lesson” I would seek to teach is, civility, respect and courtesy may at times be hard to give to others, but they are virtually always admirable, reasonable traits to possess.
Thanks for your attention, and may your time be good.