Sometimes two sides of a vociferous argument can both be right.

A silly [but true] example could be someone from Americaland arguing that mayonnaise is horrible [i have lived here for three years and am still to find one i find overly edible]

Whereas, having tasted South African mayo, and especially the no name brand big jar version, i might argue that mayonnaise is incredible.

We would both be telling the truth in terms of our understanding of the word ‘mayonnaise’ simply because our practical and experiential understanding of the word is so completely different.

That is an inconsequential and silly example though as it is purely subjective on my part in terms of my feelings towards mayonnaise.

But hopefully it still conveys the message of the idea that two people might have a completely opposing and contradictory sounding argument that might still be completely true to each individual based on their understanding of the words being used to make the point

THE WORDS ARE IMPORTANT

I have had two very frustrating [multiple] conversations recently with people arguing so strongly against me on some issue, while clearly having a very different understanding of the meaning/concept we were arguing about.

[And by “Conversations” I, of course, mean Facebook comment stream back-and-forths. Eye-roll!]

At times it felt somewhat like me saying, “I am a huge fan of Star Wars” and the protagonist responding with, “No, Star Trek is useless!”

Your point MAY OR MAY NOT be completely valid, but your opinion is completely unhelpful in this conversation where we are talking about completely different things [oh and if a Trekkie hears you assuming it’s the same as Star Wars they will beat. your. ass. up.]

EXAMPLE ONE: GOD AND THE CHURCH

A fine example of this comes up again and again with christianity and God and church-related things which is why so many followers of Jesus continually look for new names for themselves [christian, no believer, no follower, no child of God… etc] because sometimes we don’t identify with the people using the same name.

I touched on that in this post which looked at the idea of ‘The God you don’t believe in is not the same God i believe in.’ 

The extreme, and easy, example to use as reference in this is the Westboro Baptist i hesitate to call them church, but you know the ones whose website is GodHatesFags.com and who celebrate when soldiers die and who picket, well just about everything it seems.

When i meet someone who says ‘I don’t believe in God’ and i ask why and she says, ‘Oh because look at Westboro Baptist church and all the stuff they do. If that is the God you believe in, I don’t want to have anything to do with that.’ Well my response to her is , ‘What a coincidence. Me neither. I don’t want to have anything to do with a God that is characterised by hate and celebration of people doomed to hell.’

And it happens with church as well – i do love the broader definition of church being the people of God doing the things of God and seeing in His Kingdom on earth. But there are many church congregations and leaders that do things that make me want to step away and distance myself and when people say they don’t believe in church, there are a lot of times when i hear them on that.

Which is why i always challenge people to study Jesus – if you go face to face with Jesus and walk away disappointed and uninterested then that is a totally different story from you walking away from someone else’s depiction of God or someone’s [or a group of someones] depiction of the church.

FURTHER EXAMPLES

RAPE CULTURE – i take a closer look at the idea and issue of ‘Rape Culture’ and what you can do to make a difference.

WHITE PRIVILEGEi take a closer look at the idea and issues related to ‘White Privilege’ and invite your engagement.

Women across the world and people affected by apartheid in South Africa [and other places of course] have been deeply affected and possibly the best thing we can do, or at least one of the first things, is to listen and try to understand so we can have any hope of moving forwards. But so many people seem to trip over the ideas that these terms can conjure up and so instead of sensitivity and listening and vulnerability and empathy, we are faced with defensiveness and reaction and blame and walls and a complete lack of listening.

Sometimes we really need to lace up another man’s boots and get the feel of them, before we can formulate any kind of helpful response at all.

Do you have the smallest bit of space in you to be able to listen to what is being said BEFORE you form your opinion and response?

Do you have the capacity to try and hear the entirety of an argument or story, even if it contains words or phrases that make you uncomfortable or want to react or lash out or defend?

As the person who is not the person who is/was marginalised, do you honestly believe that you can legitimately tell them how they feel or what they’ve been through? Or refuse any longer to give them a chance to do the speaking and telling us how it was/is and might be…

 

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