Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Talking to myself

I'm not really posting this for you, although I hope you enjoy it. I'm really putting it here for myself, to remind myself about what I believe about crucial conversations between people who love God and claim to love each other. This is from an article on the Huffington Post by Dr. Janet Edwards (you can read the whole article here, but this is the heart of it):

Approach the other person as a beloved child of God. See Christ in the eyes of the other person. Set aside every presumption you may have about him or her except that God loves this other, just like God loves you. This is often a mystery for me that our talk with help solve.

Trust deeply that the Holy Spirit has a word for you both. Watch carefully for the gift God has for you in your exchange with this other. It probably will not be the same gift for both of you. It will most likely be a still, small voice so you must listen hard for it.

Try hard to see things from the other's point of view. Ask questions like: "This is what I hear you saying, is that correct?" or: "I want to make sure I get what you mean, is this what you said?" My own convictions have been strengthened many times by testing them against the other's heartfelt words.

Watch for those things upon which you both agree and highlight them. This can often lead to some struggle because being in agreement is foreign to us and we resist it. Still, it can be very healing to get up at the end of your conversation to go your different ways having acknowledged some things upon which you agree. It's also a great way to start an ongoing dialogue. Can we agree that our goal is Loving God, or Loving Neighbor? These are the seeds from which further discussion can blossom.

The goal is to keep the conversation going. Talking shouldn't be seen as a means to an end. Talking is a sole purpose in and of itself. For this reason, I often do not share my position with the other person (It's well known anyway). I simply take in what the other is saying and seek the best way to prompt another response from the other by sharing of my self or asking a question that has occurred to me.
There is one crucial dynamic in all of these tips required to make this work: Nothing that the other says to you is about you personally. The other person speaks only from his or her ideas and so you need not take anything that person says as true about you. I am often disappointed and challenged by what the other says but I am usually not hurt or angered by it.

I got to thinking: what if we took on these principles for conversations with those who disagree with us or those we disagree with or . . . gasp . . . our spouses and in-laws and children? Anyway, this is for me but I'm happy for you to read over my shoulder.

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