I had a really fascinating and enjoyable discussion with a small group of friends last night who have some differing opinions about God, and followed it up with a couple of other friends, and it struck me: WHY is this such a rarity? I think the biggest reason is that we are so intent on being RIGHT.
In discussions about religion, politics, sports, just about any topic imaginable, it seems we are far more concerned with being right and convincing the other person that we are, that we don’t really hear one another. We can’t set aside our absolute certainty that we know the right answer long enough to see where the other guy is coming from.
Why is this so difficult? Maybe it’s our society’s obsession with intellectuality. We have to present ourselves as having all the right answers to show that we’re “better than the apes”. Or maybe it’s just to show that I’m better than you, never mind the rest of the apes.
I think another part of it is that when we’re confident that we DO have the right answer, we feel like it is our job to win the other guy over to our way of thinking. Singlehandedly. Sometimes forcefully. It’s not enough to know that I have the right answer, I need to indoctrinate everyone I come into contact with so that the world is filled with my disciples.
Maybe the person who is disagreeing with you IS an idiot. But maybe, just maybe, he is simply at a different point in his journey than you are. And is calling him an idiot (possibly with a plethora of profanity) really going to help either of you along your journey? I doubt it. Chances are you’ve just ruined your chances at any productive discourse just because it was more important to you to assert your superiority.
And I’d just like to throw this in there: Just because you run into some real jerk with a dissenting opinion doesn’t mean that the individual you’re currently speaking to who happens to share the opinion with that jerk is also a jerk themselves. What I mean by that is that you shouldn’t decide to preemptively be hateful to this person just because they share a belief with someone who has been a jerk to you in the past. Christians do this to atheists and vice versa. Democrats do this to republicans and vice versa. Stop assuming that everyone on the other side of the argument is a self-centered, hard-headed, tyrannical, ignorant schmuck just because some of them are.
So I challenge you, and myself, to keep this in mind next time we’re face to face with someone who has a differing opinion. Try to agree to disagree. You may not be able to persuade them to believe as you do, and they may not be able to persuade you, but you still may have something to learn from one another.