Monthly Archives: January 2010

Listening

How to Stop an Argument 101 – Part 3

Posted by David—
Bullock Yokes

Photo courtesy of Cgoodwin

How many times has someone said to you, “If you would only listen”? I certainly couldn’t count the times I’ve been told that on the fingers of a troop of monkeys.

Now it may have been that I wasn’t listening, but more probable would have been (especially these days) is that I was listening, but I was formulating my response at the same time. That’s not really listening either, is it? Listening requires the act of taking in the other’s perspective fully and then examining them deeply to see if they apply.

I’m speaking mainly today in regards to interpersonal arguments, but listening applies to all sorts of arguments, from political to religious and scientific debates, and should be applied to all aspects of our lives.

In all communications, especially arguments, the deeper motive is generally overlooked. When we listen, we must hear the words and the meaning, but also the fear, the pain, the joy and the love. And no need to over-analyze here. We may hear fear and pain, but we shouldn’t go in and try to assume that we know why the fear and pain is there. That’s beyond our realm. The inner motives of a person are just that: inner, unproddable and out-of-bounds. If we assume that we know why they are fearful or in pain or even  joyful, we will miss the point. Don’t try to psychoanalyze the other person. Just feel the pain or feel the joy. It’s extremely presumptuous to think that we know why someone is angry or in pain. No matter how smart I think I am, I’m probably going to get it wrong.

Just the simple act of listening and feeling the pain, helps the other person heal, however painful it is for us to hear. In fact, if it’s not painful for us to hear, then it’s likely that the person isn’t healing. We must feel the pain. The problem is that if we don’t disperse the pain given to us, it will destroy us. It’s too much for us to handle on our own. Once again, that’s why Jesus hung on the Cross. There he takes all our burdens.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

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Argue with Martin Luther

Guest Post by Alan Gibson—

The two of us loiter together in the coffeehouse of my imagination, arguing like a couple of old friends.

“I wish that the expression ‘free will’ had never been invented, ” he remarked the other day. “It is not recorded in Scripture and should more justly be called self-will, which is  worthless.” This was Marty at his most pedantic.

“Which is to say that the self is worthless?” I parried. “You seem to preclude the possibility that my will can be in concordance with God’s.”

“Concordance indeed,” he spluttered, going on to ask how dare I equate myself with God—which I hadn’t meant to do, as Marty well knew.

“I only meant that free-will or self-will can be divinely instigated,” I suggested. “Would God have men be puppets, our will superimposed?”

He left, saying he’d just as soon have me be a puppet, which remark, whoever’s will it reflected, was certainly on the testy side.

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Examine Yourself

How to Stop an Argument 101 – Part 2

Posted by David—

It’s amazing how sometimes, I go into a situation trying hard not to argue, because of all the things I said previously, but still I end up laying down my perspective, this way and that way, trying to justify myself especially when I consider myself to be falsely accused. The argument builds. Listening break down along both fronts. Yes, all arguing is a form of warfare.

What do we do in these situations? We stop justifying ourselves and our point, no matter how much we think our point or our character has been hurt. We can’t and we shouldn’t try. In fact, if we try, we will fail, because it’s simply not our role and it is impossible. We must know in our hearts that Justice is pure and real. We don’t need to engage in warfare for ourselves. If we are being truthful, and are in the right, then we will be justified. It’s a simple fact that takes faith to employ.

What’s most crucial when these events occur in our lives is for us to search inward and find out how we have been in err, how we have lied, and take effort to obtain forgiveness. But that’s the most difficult thing to do, especially when we think we’re in the right and have been wronged. It’s completely counterintuitive, but it is the solution to all arguments and all warfare for that matter.

Ever seen a president or a king do that before? “You’re right, we have been putting economic and social strain on your land and people. Forgive us.” It’s unlikely for that to happen. However, we can make these sorts of amends almost daily in all of our interpersonal interactions, whether it be our spouses, parents, kids, friends, associates, you name it. This is peace as painful as it may be. It’s painful at the moment and it won’t make things all hunky-dory afterward either, not by a long shot.

The process I’m talking about is a lifelong journey, and truthfully, is only really possible through Christ. This is the most practical application of “The Cross” that you or I will ever engage in. In this process, we are nailed to the cross and our walk in the Kingdom begins.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.

2 Corinthians 13

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Takes One to Know One

How to Stop an Argument 101 – Part 1

Posted by David—

Everyone argues. It’s human nature, isn’t it? I’m right and you’re wrong and this is why: “Because of (a), (b) and (c)…” Or I might just yell, “nuh, uh!” There have been the times, that justification for my ‘point’ resorted to name calling. And with that the argument really starts to dissolve.  Then comes my personal favorite rebuttal: “Takes one to know one!” At least, there’s a bit of humility there.

I’m finding that all arguing, yes, all, is a completely useless enterprise. In fact, it’s more than that:  it is self-defeating. Everyone has had the sort of argument, when as you start arguing your side, you actually end up justifying your ‘opponent’ through your argument. Digging your hole deeper they say. That’s the way it always is, only sometimes it is more apparent with those who are less gifted in the art of speaking.

Just because I am arguing expresses a hesitance that, um, maybe I’m not fully justified. Truth is self-justifying and we know it in our deepest being.  That’s why we argue, because we want to hide the facts through reason. But the only necessary and valid witness in any argument is Truth itself (Himself). And don’t think that any one side is usually in the ‘right’. I suspect that even if one side of the argument seems valid and true, there’s falsehoods tucked deep within. Truth has no need for aruging, because Truth is self-evident. 

As I have said before I think the only reason language was ‘invented’ by man was to conceal truth through reason. Language was not necessary before man began his path along the big lie. Sure we communicated, but it was probably more akin to song before that.

The flip side to truth being self-justifying is that lies are self-convicting. This is why we never need to argue, nor should argue in our own defense or in the defense of others. Yes, we must witness to the truth, but there’s no need to go further than that. This or that is the way it is. And if we can say something in truth, then the truth will be self-justified. And if we lie or mislead, then no matter how much we argue, the falsehood will be revealed.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32

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Haiti: Waiting for Hope

Posted by Mike

Although any country in the Western hemisphere would have been ill equipped to cope with the kind of humanitarian and infrastructure crisis Haiti is now experiencing, Haiti is the poorest country and least equipped to deal with such a catastrophe. To obtain a shorthand review of Haiti’s plight historically, and to get some idea of the magnitude of the country’s deficiencies even before the earthquake, you might read the chapter on Haiti and the Dominican Republic in Jared Diamond’s 2005 review of what makes societies prosper and what makes them falter and deteriorate, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Although he provides a more extensive review of the Dominican Republic’s history than that of Haiti, Diamond clearly describes the cultural, economic, and political causes in Haiti that have led to the plight of extreme poverty, lack of social services, educational resources, and public infrastructure, the island’s deforestation, and the continuance of a subsistence economy devoid of significant exports.

Dr. Diamond contrasts his descriptions of Haiti with those of the Dominican Republic. Interestingly, despite both countries having had despotic rulers during most of the 20th century, those who ruled the Dominicans were more far-sighted and protective of the environment than the Haitian leaders. For example, at present over 20 percent of the Dominican Republic is within protected zones in which development is prohibited, whereas protected public land in Haiti is negligible. Despite his praise of the Dominicans’ environmental accomplishments, they do not get off scot-free. Diamond reports that during his visit in 2003, he saw significant continued pollution of streams and rivers, of the countryside, and the atmosphere, environmental concerns that would only worsen if not addressed.

Regarding the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Diamond reports on the long history of distrust between the two countries, compounded by significant differences in race, language, and culture. However, he notes that at the time of his writing (2003), 12 percent of the population of the Dominican Republic consisted of Haitians, mostly illegal immigrants, who provided much of the low-cost labor of the country.

For nearly a century Haiti has been ruled either by corrupt and ruthless dictators or privileged elites incapable of understanding the needs of the population in general and of providing the direction and structure that the country needed. I suspect that that only solution to the country’s immediate crisis and long term needs that has any merit is a long term protectorate, possibly managed by the United Nations. Those who have led Haiti in the past have allowed the country to exhaust its natural resources and its people to remain victims of the selfishness of the leadership. Although Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a long history of ill-will and distrust of each other, the present crisis may help to facilitate the rapprochement that will be necessary if this idyllic island is to provide adequately for its citizens in the future.

“If the lot of Haiti is to improve at all, I don’t see how that could happen without more involvement on the part of the Dominican Republic….While the Republic’s own resources are scarce…it could assume a larger role as a bridge…between the outside world and Haiti.”     –  from Collapse, by Jared Diamond

File:Haitian national palace earthquake.jpg

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Yes, Yes, Nod, Nod, Wink, Wink

Hurricane Katarina

Photo Credit: NASA

Posted by David-

Anyone who has spent much time with me knows that I love the weather and that I have special theories that cover just about everything. I suppose, “theory” isn’t the best word for my thoughts. It’s more like I hang on to a map that is based loosely on observation and highly on metaphor. I ask myself, “If [A] works in this pattern, then mustn’t [B] work in a similar way?” Yes, there’s trouble written all over that logic. Or is there?

I’ll share with you one of my special maps that helps me grasp processes in the cosmos. It’s quite simple: all processes of the heavens, including the ‘space’ below our feet, work like weather. I always envision the hurricane as an example because it’s so elegant and its basic processes are fairly well understood. We might not know why it centers on Kingston rather than Havana, but we do know the heat engine that drives it, the steering currents that push and pull it, and the general pattern of wind development. In my personal opinion it is the perfect model for everything from trees to planets and from atoms to galaxies. In my map, the hurricane is the rosetta stone for understanding how all natural phenomena works.

As bold and off-base as this might sound, it actually is my fundamental subconscious map that I use to understand nature. When I think geology, in the back of my head I see the earth as a hurricane. When I think of gravity, I think of the isobar gradients that weathermen plot. If I read about a scientist’s new theory about the cosmos, I always plug the new theory into my ‘map’. Does it fit into my map?

As a result, I have developed a fairly farfetched vison of how nature works. But I enjoy it and if I’m wrong, that’s okay. I’ve been wrong before. My scientist friends think that I hold on to these ideas, because that is what I ‘want’ to believe. They may be right. It maybe that my pride and prejudices need this to be the case so I don’t tumble into existential despair. But I don’t think so. These days, Jesus keeps me humble. It may very well be that I am projecting my ‘maps’ on to the universe, which takes me to one of the other special ‘maps’ that guide my understanding: human projection is a real and powerful force.

I had an interesting experience just the other day that may help me to explain. I’m using this incident as an example and by no means am justifying myself here. I’ve done the same thing many times.

I was at a dinner gathering of 20 or so men, women and children. The friends that I usually chat with were either occupied or absent, so I just sat around and watched the children play. One particular person started telling a story describing something of a political nature. As an observer to the story I listened and the storyteller knew it. Every few moments, my eyes were linked to the storyteller. I listened. As the person spoke, the story was told in a manner that had the general expectation that the audience agreed or should agree with the political position. The storyteller’s eyes were seeking facial cues of “yes, yes, I agree with you.” But I didn’t agree. I rarely agree with any political stance, right or left. But what was interesting was that the storyteller seemed to hunger for acceptance of this particular view.

At first, I felt compelled, almost as if by a power, to agree with my eyes. But my eyes wouldn’t, they tried to stay neutral, which I found to be no different than a lie. It was so difficult. Finally, I burst out and said that “no” what was being described sounded like Hell to me, because that was the truth. Politics are Hell. Politics are simply the societal gossip that lead humans down the road to civil war.

So, how do I explain this common human phenomena, this powerful force that causes us to seek justification of our points of view from those around us? It’s easy. I just look inside myself to see why others do it. I’ve done this before with my ‘theories’. My ‘fallen’ nature desires to be God. I project–as a force–my notions, my thoughts, and my lies upon reality for purposes of dominion and self-justification. At least I’ve done this in the past and I certainly do it at times presently.

I never really understood until recently how sin can have affected all of the cosmos, as is taught in Christian theology. But I now understand it to be because of the power and scope of human projection. Because of our fallen state, when we look beyond our own noses we tend to project the ego outward. However rational and unbiased and scientific we may try to be, we can’t help but apply the root of our pride and prejudices to the universe and to our next door neighbor. This is a true force and can be likened to gravity and to barometric isobars. And it can become malicious and manipulative as we seek justification.

For quite sometime, maybe our whole lives long, we can go about thinking that we’re right and that the other guy is wrong. In fact, because we’re so good at projecting with a force, the universe may even start talking back to us, and nod, and say, “yes, yes, nod, nod, wink, wink, I agree with you. I want to belong to your way of thinking.” But eventually we will discover, that it wasn’t universe talking back after all, it was only our reflection and, oh, how lonely we will be then.

Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.

Romans 8:19-21

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