The Other I

January 13, 2011

Finding words that heal

Filed under: Political thoughts,Two sides of the question — theotheri @ 3:09 pm

As I listened to President Obama address the nation after the Arizona massacre last night, I thought again how wonderful it is to share in dialogues with people who do not disrespect someone simply because they disagree.  Who do not argue by insult or try to convince by ridicule and threat.     

One of the delights of this blog for me  is that it has led to dialogues – here and on other blogs – that enable me to listen and to defend, to change and to become more convinced, to respect and be respected in good faith.  The benefits have been huge.  My ideas have broadened and clarified, in some cases they have even been revolutionized, and have changed the way I look at the world and my life in it.   Many of the words truly have been words that heal.

Indeed, there have been several times in my life when I have been immensely grateful for words that heal.

Yet, as I look at my angry, polarized country, I can only conclude that most other people have the same impulses I still sometimes have to resist.  Rather than explaining and in turn listening to someone who opposes my point of view, I often would rather not make the effort.  I’d rather dismiss them with some terse psychological diagnosis about fear or levels of intelligence.

I remember once getting an email from a colleague expressing a religious view with which I profoundly disagree.   I put it into the email delete box  seven different times.  I kept taking it back out, deciding to try to explain, and then changing my mind on the grounds that it was hopeless to try to deal with someone so stupidly rigid.

In the end, my better self did win and I answered his accusations with as much clarity and respect as I could.  I didn’t change his mind.  But we are still on speaking terms and I am glad neither of us retreated permanently to the Delete Box.

Despite their huge potential, words that heal, that bridge a gap rather than widen it, are so often so hard to find in ourselves.   I think that to swallow that anger, to replace that cutting sarcasm with words that try to reach across the chasm often demands a greatness of spirit both to utter and to hear.

Like defending freedom, letting others disagree with us with civility is a never-ending challenge.

Okay, this ends my Thought for the Day.  It’s just that I want to say Amen! to President Obama.  Even if he already said it so much better.

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