Ever discuss topic with a friends and find that you disagree more than you ever thought you would? You know, the more contentious the topic the more frustrating it is? It may be frustrating when you dialogue over issues that the two people know but what if only one knows the subjectmatter? What then?
Ever hear, "I heard it on the internet, it must be true?" or "What you are telling me is insane, I don’t believe you?" I am in these conversations seemingly 24/7/365.
My desire afterall is to know more for myself, read because few others seem to, read because if others don't I would like to offer information people could find helpful or to help connect the dots but I never thought that due to the things I read that I would be banished by my friends and anyone else that just didn't agree whether they knew what I as talking about or not. It is almost as if facts and evidence don't matter and all that matters instead are opinions, educated ones or not regardless of party. And we wonder why we have problems in our country?
I had two specific conversations this week in particular that caused me to write about this because I think it is important, at least important to me.
I posted something on social media and was talking to my friend and I was given the same basic response from them... "Tom, What you are telling me not only doesn't make sense, you are insane!" followed by seemingly snide comments about finding anything on the internet and it must be true. Another comment was "it wasn’t that long ago when you only saw stories like that as headlines in the Weekly World News while standing in line at the grocery. I always found them amusing and entertaining" as if to respectully, discredit the claim(s) I was making.
Although I could have become frustrated, I needed to diffuse the situation by thinking about what I was hoping to gain from offering my response. My response was a bit like this...
"I know, right? Now these stories are right here in front of us and people have a real problem wondering if any of it is true. Sure, it could easily be denied and that is a problem for sure."
I was on the phone yesterday with a friend that knows very little about what I know. He doesn't study it and has a focus far different from mine. When I told him some of what I know and see (and have evidence for) he just simply disagreed. As heartbroken as I was that a friend that has known me longer than anyone could so easily disagree with me, it was hurtful until I realized this is a normal human reaction. So my friend and I dialogued about our differing perspectives and the glaring disconnect between what I know and have studied and his lack of doing so.
I told my friend it was unjust to make claims about things he didn't know about outside of the form of a question and he surprisingly agreed. I told him it would be better for him to ask me than make judgement calls according to his own opinion. He was shocked that I wasn't angry. Honestly, so was I. I asked him what good would it do to expect him to do something I knew he woudn't that was also part of normal human behavior? I told him at the very least if he wanted to discuss a topic to be willing to really talk about it and allow me to explain why I believe what I do and be willing to review the evidence, but if he wasn't willing not to bother and we would talk about something else.
Why would someone want to engage in a debate without any knowledge at all of the subject matter? I also told him (he claims to be Christian) that "a Prophet wasn't even welcome in his own home." This didn't of course mean I claimed to be a prophet, what it was intended to say was that no matter how well you know someone, if someone tells you something you refuse to believe, even if it is true, it doesn't matter how close you are to them, they still won't believe you. I am reminded of the quote:
"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."
I am not as thick-skinned as many think I am. Conversations like this hurt- every one of them, because I have dedicated my life to protect my family and my fellow Idahoans and after all of that work, a person can just say, "Nah, no thanks!" and think you are bat crazy? How can this work? Each interaction I have is a constant reminder that all I can do is plant seeds and that it is better to help cultivate these seeds than "pee on them" by getting angry. I have found that not getting angry when dialoging certain topics, is an art. Not everyone can do it an the worse things get in our country, I feel the less people will be able to master it when they need to most.
The sad part is that not only is ignorance a huge problem in this country, so is the inability and "intolerance" of those that know a thing to convey it to those that may not. So, by default, the solution is not only becoming open and educated but be willing to talk to people no matter where and who they are regardless of what they may believe.
Remember to focus on several things 1. Why you are doing or saying what you are saying and 2. If there is someone in front of you, there is a better chance they are willing to listen than if they weren't there. This should trigger a third response, 3. If I rip them a new one, I will lose my audience. Of course your fourth response should be to ask youself what you could have done to achieve the desired result you had in mind before you destroyed that interaction. Did you think that such an interaction was random or of God? I mean, if most, like myself, believe God created all things and many believe nothing happens by accident, how does this adjust your vision now? This isn't just about them, it's also about you!
Did you pee on your seeds? Did you somehow think that it is your job to convince a person of a thing or is it your job to plant and allow the cultivation to happen between the person and God? Remember, people inherently, no matter how small the issue try to become God unto themselves and it is a full time mission to make sure we don't. Every interaction you have is a chance for you to speak the truth and remember you are the inferior in the conversation and that it's God's job to do what He wants with the information you shared.
Since this has been a long and difficult process for me to get here, I thought I would share a bit about what I have learned so far. I am still a work in progress but people seem to be noticing a difference in my demeanor and I am pleased about that. I hope I can continue to be this way and I hope what I share with you, you will find beneficial.
I believe those that do get angry in cases like these fall into several categories: 1. They lack the adequate understanding of the thing, 2. They lack the articulation skills in which to discuss the issue, 3. They possess pride and lack of self-control, 4. The inexperience of such dialogue with others, 5. All or part of the above with lack of substantial evidence, lack of time, desire on behalf of either or both parties, poor platform, the lack of knowledge or not realizing the point of the discussion, just having a bad day for whatever reason or thinking it is your job to convince a person of the thing. In short, Say what you feel you need to say as respectfully as possible and allow the conversation to manifest in the mind of the person you spoke to remembeirng you did all you could the best way you could and leave the rest to God.
Relating to political affairs and affairs of faith, with everyone I have met in the last 20 years, although many of us agree on a lot, it would appear not many of them agree with me on what I feel are crucial issues so here I am, at times, seeingly more frequently, feeling alone on an island knowing what I know and few that seem to care. As I pondered my "boo-hoo moment" I realized once again though, it isn't about what I know or even my ability to change minds or even overcoming the feeling of being alone, it, like what I have written above, was another test that had no other outcome rather than was I willing to do it even if I didn'twant to and How did I perform in that opportunity. The goal once againn wasn't to convince another of the thing, it was to share and interact the way we would want others to interact with us.
My wife as always told me: "Tom, you get more flies with honey than vinegar" and as much as I wanted to poke fun at what she said, (Like why anyone would want flies) I understood what she meant and she was right...again. LOL