Lately, it seems like I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about the need for “conversations.” In the wake of the Ferguson, MO tragedy, I’ve heard leaders saying that we need to have a conversation about race. I hear politicians every evening on the news talking about the need to have a conversation about immigration, the economy, education, gay rights and a myriad of other topics. I routinely hear parents discuss the need to have conversations with their kids about drugs, sex, and education. Couples describe a tremendous need to have conversations with each other about their relationship, finances, feelings.
For all of the people talking about the need for conversations, I often wonder if any of these conversations have ever taken place and if not, why?
Why is it that we talk incessantly about having conversations, yet as far as I can tell, they rarely occur?
The issues are legitimate. Our experiences are legitimate. We need to talk. Here’s what prevents us from ever coming to the table and having productive, successful conversations.
1.We don’t come to the table in good faith. It has become epidemic to vilify anyone with whom we disagree. We throw around words like “Hitler,” “wife-beater,” “racist,” and “terrorist,” to call each other out and then we wonder why these people might not want to come to the table and discuss anything.
Safety and respect are required as fundamental qualities for building relationships and resolving differences. We can show others respect even if we don’t agree with them. We can create an environment of safety that welcomes everyone to the table.
If we want to have a conversation with anyone, if we want to resolve racial differences, if we want to heal our country, each of us must look within and ask ourselves if we contribute or contaminate good faith in the relationship. If we do, we must confess it, ask forgiveness and CHANGE.
John 8:7 says, that “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
2.We are not honest. Our culture has become masters at spin. Spinning is lying. We watch our leaders spin anything and everything, twisting the truth so much, that we no longer believe anything that anyone says. We are cynical.
We’ve learned to spin, too. We spin the facts at work. We spin the truth with our kids and our spouses. The worst part is that we have spun the truth so much that we believe our own spin.
We must begin to speak truthfully to ourselves, and each other. We must build an environment of honesty. Scripture tells us to judge and discern the truth. Honesty breeds trust. Cynicism breeds contempt. Contempt will never solve our problems or restore our relationships.
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) states that, “ Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
3.No one is willing to look at their own stuff. We say we want a conversation, but far too often I think what we really want is a platform to preach. We’re really not interested in hearing another perspective. Our perspective seems to be the only one that counts. Perhaps that is why Congress is in gridlock, why conversations on race never take place, why homes never get healed.
Matthew 7:3 (NIV) asks “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
The truth is, I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. It doesn’t work.
A conversation usually has two sides, two sets of thoughts and feelings, two different perspectives that are both valuable and unique. If we are not willing to hear about things for which we are responsible, if we are not willing to look and see what changes need to be made within ourselves, we will never be able to have meaningful, successful conversations, we will never be able to see the changes we say we desire.
- In your relationships, do you come to the table in good faith? Do you offer respect to those with whom you disagree?
- Are you honest in your conversations or are you a master of spin?
- How willing are you to look at and own your own stuff?
These are the qualities necessary for conversations to flourish, for relationships to be healed and for differences to be resolved.
It is true, there are some conflicts that may never be resolved. There are some issues where bridges cannot be built. Yet, if we have done our best to look within and cultivate the qualities of safety, respect, honesty, and accountability, we will be doing our part to make a difference in our relationships and perhaps our world.
Who knows what impact that might have on our communities and our country?
One person, one family, one community, is powerful to heal and change a nation.
We can be the change!