Monday, May 12, 2008


The rain has stopped and the sun has come out. It's a beautiful morning. While sitting in the garden this morning in my "go-to" spot to read and think, my thoughts gravitated back to the difficulty created for relationships when we allow assumptions of the other to take over. These things we assume about the other create the starting point from which we then process what we think we see and hear coming from the other. Many things play into this and more often than not, even if some of what we are assuming is correct, all it takes is a little of it to be wrong for us to create in our minds a picture that is not consistent with what the other is seeing. This is why dialog is so important.
Communication is a difficult endeavor that we all participate in each and everyday. I have found out many things about myself over the past few years and one of those things was that I had lived much of my life in a place of letting my biases create many assumptions about people and circumstances that were just dead wrong.
In a conversation with a good friend one day something wonderful happened that set in motion some much needed change. At first I was so pained by what I saw that day but the immediate freedom I also experienced in that moment made that pain actually very easy to embrace. I saw that day how my "world view" had created many biases in my life and had led me to assume many things about everything. "If people could just see it as clearly as I see it, things would be so much better." That all sounds so pathetic to me today but that is what my life had become. It turns out much of this (and it was mostly affecting my immediate family...but the ugliness did extend out into the world around me) had been built into me through the idea that it was my job to convince everyone else to think and see things in the same way I was thinking and seeing things. That wonderful day when the curtain was pulled back in my mind so I could see this, allowed me to see how many times throughout my life my thinking had been proven to be so wrong about things I had been so convinced about concerning others and circumstances. Extreme confidence guided by our personal biases is a destructive force when it comes to relationships...those closest to us and then every other one beyond that. Nations even send their young off to war due to operating from these narrow biases and assumptions.
As I sat in the garden this morning looking out from the place I was occupying, the view in front of me created a certain perception of things. The first picture above is what I was seeing. I could describe it in detail. The second picture is from the reverse angle and even though all the same plants are contained within the picture, the view is much different. If someone had been occupying the other end of the garden and both of us were determined to convince the other that what we were seeing is the way it is, we would have a problem. Our viewpoints are different because the point from which we view it is different. This is why I have become more interested in people's stories than I am in the sharing of information and facts.
I love these two words: Didactic and Dialogical. A didactic approach seems to be how most people live. It certainly was the way I had lived most of my life. Religious training reinforced this way to a point that was nothing but dangerous and deepened my blindness and caused hurt in other people and myself. "The facts are the facts Jack." Turns out it wasn't a good and healthy way to live. Sometimes I had the facts wrong and sometime even when I had them right I used them in a wrong way. The dialogical approach is certainly messier and takes more effort but is producing relationships like I have never experienced. People are stories and we all are very unique. The things that happen in our lives shape us differently and cause us to process things differently. If we are not engaged in life with others in a dialogical manner we more than likely are engaged with others in a didactic manner. One leads to relationship and a journey of discovery together and the other leaves us in a place acting like a judge, attempting to correct others. Today I know I can slip out of the one at any given moment and be in the other before I am aware of it. But before that day of change I mentioned above, I lived permanently in one of these approaches to life and I couldn't even see the other. Hopefully through this change I will continue to become more and more of a safe place for the people around me and healthy relationships will continue to grow.


Rick Gibson said...

The phrase or idea "come, let us reason together" seems to keep poping up all over today, it's almost as if someone is trying to tell me something ;-).
I first thought about it this morning, and how beautiful the phrase really is. God inviting us into a conversation that helps us to see his heart. Unfortunately, the phrase is usually used in a didactic manner that doesn't promote relationship.

Kent said...

Rick, I like that also. I think it is the Spirit that is inviting us to keep walking in new ways, which actually naturally happens as our minds are being renewed. A life of repentance, turning from the old ways that keep us stuck.