Dialogue, Maybe Over Coffee.


Some time ago, a blogger completely destroyed my entire blog. He wrote a detailed analysis of the whole thing, from my theology to posts to quotes to my childhood. He posted it all over my blog just to make sure I saw it. He actually had great points, and I imagine that if we sat down for coffee and discussed these things, we would find a lot of common ground. I had to really think about some areas that I mishandled. My only issue, really, was that he was so very distasteful and trashy and condescending that I just couldn’t take him very seriously. (He later deleted his blog and I never heard from him again.)

I’m afraid I’ve fallen into the same trap of just going off on someone online, especially when I’ve had a bad day. I usually don’t respond to hate, but when I do: it never works. Even when someone offers fair criticism, I’m not always sure they’re interested in actual dialogue. There’s about a zero percent chance it will be a healthy talk, anyway. The more you defend and explain, the more it’s misinterpreted. If you miss a single thing, it will be pounced on and torn to pieces. If you apologize, it’s never enough. Semantics always escalate. And I’ve learned: Christians love to devour their own. There’s some epidemic of Christian men who love to watch other Christian men burn. (Cue the Hans Zimmer TDK horns.)

Tone, approach, and demeanor are all crucial to being heard. I can’t hear someone who makes a million assumptions with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It doesn’t matter that we agree or disagree. My question is: Would you listen to you if you spoke the same way to yourself?

I’ve failed at this many times, and I want to do better.

I love conversation. I love to be challenged. I think even conflict with a direction can lead to growth. The point isn’t to see eye-to-eye. The point is to lay down our presumptions and to grow from the best of each other. It’s to not make a false parody of the other viewpoint, but to truly listen, and then to offer an angle that hasn’t been considered. It’s to humanize someone so that we’re not equating disagreement with moral value. It’s to first consider that we don’t see the whole thing ourselves, and maybe the meeting of our perspectives can create an even higher ground to see more than before.

Of course, it has to start with a sensible approach on both sides, and the willingness to be teachable. If your mind is already made up, then never mind. We don’t have to like each other, but there’s a huge difference between winning points for preaching to the choir and actually caring about what you’re saying. There’s a difference between proving the point right and proving yourself right. One gets you heard; the other gets a shrug. We don’t have to agree. I just want to talk, over coffee.

J.S.