Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Value of the Opposing View

“Iron sharpens iron,

and one person sharpens the wits of another.”

~Proverbs 27:17 (NRSV).

Whenever we take an opposing view in life one of two things generally happens—one good, the other not as good.

We’ll either reflect over our responding view—and hence the source viewpoint—and meditate on their comparative veracity, sometimes for hours or even days afterward, or we’ll think more and more how ‘right’ our view is compared to how ‘wrong’ the source view is. Sometimes this latter view might actually be right but it doesn’t do us any good to pump up our own tyres.

The Frustrating Beauty of Communication

The beauty—and at the same time, the travesty—of communication, and particularly that of the written word, is so much of the semantics can be lost in transmission, translation, transliteration and receipt. The beauty is mystery.

Also, the premise, context, focus, meaning and conclusion of the matters at hand simply add their own awkward dimensions to the complicated network of thinking (and feeling) variables that we do battle with—and with words!

If the law is an ass, so then is the issue of language and communication at times; God, in this, reveals our necessary folly post haste, though we will often want to chastise the other person in our frustration.

The message is somehow changed as the words are let fly or typed on a page.

I often find this with my own writing. People naturally read it with their own frame of thinking and feeling at mind and heart. Sometimes they hit on ‘what’ I was saying—remembering context, which is always incredibly important—and sometimes they don’t.

And still there is benefit. This is another mystery.

Pastors preach sermons and wonder why there were various different conclusions reached by their parishioners. Sure, part of this is the work of the Holy Spirit, but just as pertinently, we all have our own filters, our own needs and also our own fears—which we seek to placate. Again, in that, the ministry of the Holy Spirit at times.

The Benefit of Debate

Personally I’m not a big subscriber to debate—and not because I don’t believe in it, because I do. I just don’t have either the knack or the passion for protracted ‘tennis game’ debates which often go nowhere functional.

Debates reveal me as impatient; my focus tending forward.

And having said this, I am a subscriber of personal debate—of mulling the issues over in my own mind and heart.

If we don’t attempt to conform our thinking to what else is out there we quickly become islands of solitude that can’t be reached.

Our God has given us the ability and the propensity to ruminate over things that are important to us. To have the debate, and to do so respectfully and for edification, whether personally or interpersonally, is a great thing.

It is also a great thing to always bear in mind the multiplicity of communication—what we understand personally is not the whole box and dice.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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