When the political, cultural and theological climates are marked with polar opposite views, hate begins spilling out of many of us. We think hate-filled thoughts about people who have different views. People use hate-filled language to express their dissent with another’s opinion. This is not beneficial to anyone. All it does is fuel the hate and does little to create change.
Let’s start with listening and acknowledging. Although this doesn’t necessarily stop the hate immediately, I believe deep and lasting change happens when we are willing to listen to where the other is coming from, when we listen to each other with the intent of hearing them and acknowledging their view. Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge what someone else is saying because we fear we are giving approval. Acknowledgment is not approval or agreement. It simply is saying, “You get to have the view you have. I do not get to decide that for you. I hear what you are saying.”
This is a place to begin bridging the gap whether you are talking about a marriage, a family, a community, a country, or the world. Just start here, “Let’s have a dialogue where you get to tell me your view, I’ll listen, I’ll acknowledge what you are saying and then you will do the same for me.” And that’s it. You may walk away from the conversation unsatisfied since you haven’t reached a solution yet, but that is down the road and can be too big of a goal to start with. You could be setting yourselves up for failure.
Some issues haven’t changed for generations. Although it would be best for all if we could get to some sort of workable agreement soon, that isn’t likely to happen in one conversation. So keep your goal reachable. Just listening to another person is a huge step. Adding the piece of acknowledging what they are saying is a grand goal for now.