So, a few months ago (or maybe longer or shorter, I’m too lazy to look it up right now) I posted a podcast on How to Talk to People You Disagree With. Today’s post has two purposes:
First, one of our listeners, Nathan Kitchen, designed a wonderful infographic based off the episode and we wanted to publish it here (you can find it at the end of this post). Thanks so much Nathan! If the episode was helpful to you, please download it, print it, and tape it to your dashboard as you drive to Thanksgiving dinner with your extended family.
Secondly, and more seriously, I was sad when I got no pushback regarding how I ended the title of the episode with a preposition. But I did get some pushback that I wanted to address in the rest of the post.
As a brief review, the podcast encouraged some practical advice for having conversations with people whose opinions differ from yours on politics, religion, the television show Arrested Development, and other important but potentially incendiary topics. What I didn’t do was provide this disclaimer: I am writing from my own perspective, which is someone who tends to be an “aggressor” in a conversation. For some people, my advice might have been irrelevant, at best, or bad advice, at worst for people who are conflict avoiders or accommodators.
Respect & Conversation
My intention was never to say that we should be okay with our voice not being heard. Or that we shouldn’t put boundaries up with people who continue to dehumanize us in conversation. For so many Christians, especially women, we’ve been taught “Doormat Love”: that not being heard and getting stepped over again and again is a virtue and that’s what self-sacrificing like Jesus looks like. Just like Jesus, we should find ways to serve and be served, preach about injustices and be quiet when accused. And when do we do these things? It depends. On personality, circumstance, place in life, past experiences, mental health, and a host of other things. My hope is only to encourage those on the journey to find their way.
Our Prescriptions Are All Different
The philosopher Nietzsche gets a bad rap among Christians. I mean he does have an entire essay about the death of God and wrote a book called Anti-Christ so I suppose some of it was earned. I personally really like Nietzsche. In his book, Twilight of the Idols, he critiques an Italian writer named Cornaro for claiming that he found the diet for a long and healthy life. Nietzsche rightly points out that different body types require different types and quantities of food to be healthy. Then he says the same about morality: the right thing or wrong thing to do can’t be universal. We’re all built differently and so what we “ought” to do in a given moment is different depending on our personality, experiences, and desired outcomes.
My wife & I experienced this as we began studying the Enneagram. We learned early on that our “proper” response to authority was likely very different since she is a “6” and I am an “8.” That is to say, it’s probably healthy and good in many circumstances for her to stand up to authority and in some cases, even defying authority. Rarely would that be a good and healthy thing for me to do since that’s my natural bent. Submission is the name of my game.
And so, my assumption, which I will henceforth try to make explicit, is that what’s good advice for me isn’t necessarily good advice for you.
P.S. In case you are thinking I’m just advocating for godless moral relativism, see Pete’s previous post on how the Bible (especially the Wisdom Literature) points us in the same direction.