Monday, December 31, 2007

On Taking People at Their Word...

... or giving them the benefit of the doubt, or assuming they have honorable intentions.

In these waning minutes of 2007 (in the eastern time zone, as I write), it occurs to me that if I were to articulate a wish for the new year, it would be for the grace to continue forming the habit of assuming the best about people, particularly those with whom I am not inclined to agree. I want this for myself because it is the same charitable disposition that I wish others would exercise toward me. It is one thing to be disagreed with, and not necessarily a painful thing if I am persuaded that the one who disagrees with me actually understands my position, and that the disagreement is therefore honest, and not rooted in caricature or ad hominen or, worst of all, a "diagnosis" of some illness or character defect on my part.

Sadly, it is my experience more often than not that disagreement, especially in the ongoing discussions on the future of Anglican Christianity in which I participate in various ways, takes the form of rhetorical posturing, exaggeration, blame-shifting, and the ascription of ulterior motives and other such iterations of chicanery. This certainly happens across the great Reappraiser-Progressive / Reasserter-Orthodox divide (no news there), and it happens in both directions on a daily basis. It also happens within the Reasserter-Orthodox "party"--not only between the "FedCon" and "ComCon" camps, but even within them at times. There seems to be a social version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics at work here: Without constant maintenance, the "order" of relationships grounded in trust and charity inevitably disintegrates into the "chaos" of propaganda, spin, over-simplification, and entrenched positions, with everyone feeling like they're the victim of the other side's duplicity.

So, in 2008 (and beyond), I shall redouble my effort to say what I mean and mean what I say, and to expect what I say to be taken at face value. And I shall endeavor to extend the same courtesy to others, friend and foe alike. Our disagreements will, no doubt, continue, and perhaps even widen. But we will all go to sleep with a clearer conscience if we can train ourselves to start with the assumption that our interlocutors want nothing other than God's best for everyone concerned.

Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

Only trouble is, is it Biblical?

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they come from God.

Be innocent as doves, but wise as serpents.

Anonymous said...

Anon - how's this from today's, 1/3, lectionary?

Eph 4:29 - 32
29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

-miserable sinner