Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creating Controversy

Sometimes the best way to find out if anyone is listening is to say something controversial.  It can't be "in-your-face" controversial, but a simple values-based statement.  Generalizations are usually a good place to start.

A simple one would be, "People get fat because they eat too much."  Try it and see what happens.  There will be people who react that it is really a hormonal imbalance, or it is lack of exercise, or it is eating the wrong kinds of food.  Probably there is evidence to back each and every position.  Ferreting out the truth is sometimes difficult.

Generalizations are handy.  It saves us from having to go into complex analysis and in-depth reasoning.  After all, simple is better, isn't it?

I think in many ways our society has become hyper-sensitive to accusation.  We live in the age of blame.  Statements that are meant as lazy generalizations are often perceived as targeted accusations of a personal nature.  Reactions are a result of personal offense taken when instead, the response should be introspection and examination of the truth contained in the statement.

I had a fairly volatile temper when I was young.  The years have burned off most of the volatility and it is much easier now for me to think rather than to react.  If confronted by something offensive I am learning to ask questions such as, "Why does this person think the way they do?", "What is the real issue here -- are we just looking at a symptom or at a cause?", "Is there data that I am missing that would change my position?", "Am I right and them wrong or, is the truth somewhere in the middle?"

When we fail to ask these and similar questions, we often jump to conclusions that are incorrect.  The offending person may be having a bad day and really meant no offense; they were just venting their frustration on a handy target.

I suspect there is something deeper in the tendency today to hyper-sensitivity toward perceived offense.  I believe it is rooted in selfishness.  It is rooted in the culture of I/me.  If the world revolves around me and someone doesn't see things my way they are attacking me personally.  The solution is to think of others.  We must care enough about others that we can see things from their perspective or we will eventually be offended by everyone.  After all, offense is our attitude, not theirs.

1 Corinthians 13
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

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