Have you heard or seen anything like the reports from some of the Town Hall Meetings on the proposed healthcare plan? Screaming and yelling. Uncivil behavior. I know the rhetoric rachets up several notches when people are frightened; that's to be expected. But the unfiltered emotion, the vitriol, the volume? What has happened to us? Have we forgotten how to talk, really talk with each other?
In this day of talk radio, polarized politics, and the all-important "sound bite," it just seems easier to make pronouncements or denouncements rather than to sit down and really converse with each other, to truly communicate with each other. It's much easier to use words as weapons to wound each other than it is to use them as keys to gently open ourselves up to each other.
The older I get, the more of the news I watch, the more of community life I observe, the more convinced I become that if we could all just sit down and talk, really talk with and listen to each other, most of the world's problems could be solved-even issues surrounding healthcare. If we all, even if just the Christians, could really speak the truth in love, I believe, I truly believe that the world would be a healthier, happier, much more peaceful place.
Two ideas I've heard recently about talking are helping me better to practice "speaking the truth in love." Perhaps you will find them helpful, too.
The first comes from farmer poet Wendell Berry. In an interview, Berry said this, "If you come to the table of conversation needing to be right, true conversation can't happen." It makes sense, doesn't it? Because if we have to be right, we can't hear what the other person is saying, can we? In a true conversation, we have to be willing to hear the other person, we have to be willing to change our minds. If we aren't willing to hear the other person, if we aren't willing to change our minds, "if we come to the table of conversation needing to be right, then true conversation can't happen."
The second notion comes from the Sufis, who say that speech is better than silence only when it passes three tests. Test 1: Is it true? Test 2: Is it necessary? Test 3: Is it kind? Is it true, necessary, and kind? Only if it passes all three tests is speech better than silence. Kind of makes you wonder why the world isn't any quieter than it is.
I wonder what might happen to the healthcare debate if we could enter into true dialogue with each other, if all the words we spoke were true, necessary, and kind? I wonder what might happen to the healthcare debate if we really started listening to each other?
Peace for the journey,