Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Carefully Considered Conversation

I appear to most people to be a classically orthodox Mormon. I have held positions of perceived authority in every area in which I have lived; I have six children - the oldest on a mission and the youngest in grade school; my wife did not work outside our home until a couple of years ago, when our youngest started school; I always wear a white shirt and tie to church; I support the Priesthood leadership in public, almost without exception; I live a very conservative life; and on and on and on.

However, many of my religious and political views defy classification of my collective beliefs. Some are conservative; many are moderate and nuanced; some are very liberal. I have spent years carefully considering and altering my perspective on many issues. Even so, I constantly have to respond to assumptions that, because of my general appearance, I believe the most extreme conservative things imaginable - even from other members and even on public blogs where I have commented regularly for nearly four years. I often write something and then have to respond to a response by saying, “Wait. Read it again. I didn’t say that.” I want to be judged by what I actually say, not by what others have said that gets lumped in with what I said - so I try hard to grant others that same courtesy.

Misplaced assumptions happen to me and to others, regularly - I believe because it is very easy to read certain buzz words and phrases and jump to conclusions based on previous experiences with the attitudes and beliefs of others. Sometimes it is hard to read slowly and carefully and thoughtfully and avoid assuming too early, “I’ve heard that one before” - often stopping and responding at that point without finishing a comment or comments. If there is one frustration of public conversations like this for me, it is when I see the emotions roil and stereotypes get attacked when no such stereotypes have been stated.

When we come together in sincerity and attempted understanding - not to convince each other but to learn from each other - great things can happen. When we position ourselves against each other (like even I do sometimes), great things rarely happen. Ultimately, I believe the responsibility is mine for what I give to and get from any gathering - whether in a building or on a blog. I can't blame anyone but myself if I leave a potential feast only partially filled.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful Ray.You often say things I have only intuited and had no way to express.It's interesting how the expression somehow makes the intuition more concrete.I wish I had heard this said many years ago as i come from a family where we learnt to be habitually oppositional rather then collaborative-a huge disadvantage in spiritual matters.
I'm just beginning to grapple with this in my fifties,and it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.My instinct is always 'Yeah,but..."And worst of all,I've taught this to my kids.Oh well,better late than never.I hope they notice change in me.I love the principal of repentance.

chococatania said...

Great post. It is so easy to jump to conclusions - well before the first word has come out of another's mouth.

I feel myself battling this at times, and I think that it simply a lack of charity on my part. Often, the words, " not easily provoked..." flash through my mind (after I've allowed myself to be provoked. ;)

Anyways. Thanks for this reminder - to listen and learn.