Monday, October 20, 2014

Understanding requires context

One of the most troubling things in this world - particularly in the US - is the lack of civility. We seem to be polarized and driven by extremism. We don't know how to really talk to one another about difficult issues. Too often we resort to name calling. Let's try to be civil.
It's not just a problem on the right or on the left. It's becoming a cultural problem. On both sides of the isle I see people calling one another idiots for expressing a viewpoint. While I may radically disagree with a person's perspective, I pray to learn to be civil in my response to it. It is not easy.
There are so many sources for information and so many variations of media coming at us every day. Many have learned that they need to evoke an emotional response to get our attention. They seek to push our buttons - "Can you believe..." It's a sound bite... a headline... with no context. Far too often we bite. We respond and look no further. We react and make no effort to understand the opposing viewpoint.
This is why we get no where. This is why we fail to solve big issues. We are shouters and have lost our ears.
While we may be able to provide a headline for events of our lives, the headline is not the whole story. There will be 20 other people who were part of or witness to that story who have 20 different points of view. Some will be quite similar and some will be radically different. It's about perspective and a greater context that somehow ties into the whole.
We must build compassion for - capacity for - an ear for - the opposing view. Not a shut down response or a "you're an idiot" response but an honest review of the logic behind the argument.
It may be totally illogical to us. It may be based on crazy assumptions. But if we fail to listen and carefully, civilly break the logic and assumptions down into their parts, all we will do is call one another idiots.
Often we face huge projects that appear to be overwhelming. If we break those projects into parts and tackle the tasks one by one, they become manageable. The individual parts are the context.
The next time you see a headline, don't react until you gain some perspective on the context. We can only truly make a difference if we begin to understand one another. Understanding requires context.

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