Let’s not spend so much time boasting about the ways we are good that we can’t hear about the ways we are bad. We need to follow the advice of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Remove the plank from our own eye so we can see clearly to remove specks from the eyes of others. (Matthew 7:3-5).
We’ve all been fooled by a Deceptive-Drawing-Designed-To-Deceive-And-Divide (“DDDDD”). In the same drawing, one person will see a drawing of an old hag. Another person will see a drawing of a beautiful woman.
The first time people see one of these drawings, it can be incredibly hard to see the other viewpoint—the other perspective. Sometimes arguments breakout between those who see an old hag and those who see a beautiful woman.
Such one-sided beliefs and passionate arguments are especially intractable when school children are shown such a picture for the first time in their lives. They lack the wisdom and perspective that come from having previously seen such a DDDDD.
The key to seeing the drawing accurately is to listen to the other person’s viewpoint—their perspective. As the saying goes: “Don’t listen to argue. Listen to understand.”
If you argue with the other person, you’ll never see the drawing accurately. But if you listen to understand, you’ll begin to see that there’s more to the drawing than you first saw. If you began by seeing a hag, you’ll begin seeing a beautiful woman. If you began by seeing a beautiful woman, you’ll begin seeing a hag.
It’s worth stressing that neither person’s initial belief is wrong. There really is a drawing of an old hag. There really is a drawing of a beautiful woman.
Neither person’s initial belief is wrong. But each person’s initial belief is too limited. By hearing other viewpoints and perspectives, each person sees the drawing better.
Unfortunately, the natural instinct of many people is to listen to argue. It’s easier to memorize all the ways that the lines in the drawing form a beautiful woman. Or to memorize all the ways that the lines in the drawing form an old hag.
It takes hard work—and humility—to recognize that the opposite belief, viewpoint and perspective is true, too.
One of the differences between a politician and a statesman is that a politician listens to argue, but a statesman listens to understand.
It is far easier to be a politician than a statesman. That’s why we have far more politicians than statesmen.
It is far easier to succeed in politics by arguing that you are 100% right and your opponent is 100% wrong. That’s the easiest way to raise money. That’s the easiest way to motivate people to vote for you.
Unfortunately, this is an example of where the easy path—the path of the politicians—is broad, and many there be that follow it. But the hard path—the path of the statesmen—is narrow, and few there be that follow it.
Yet the easy, broad path of the politicians ultimately leads to disaster. While the narrow, hard path of the statesmen ultimately leads to a civilization that is good, that is very good.
Such hypocritical blindness to our own wrongdoing was evident in the Civil War.
The North denounced the South for the evils of slavery—surely “an old hag” if ever there was one. The North claimed to be a “beautiful woman” that hated slavery and fought so that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
But the North was blind to its own hypocrisy.
The North needed to listen to the viewpoint of Frederick Douglass—a former slave who skewered the hypocrisy of the North. The North grew rich and powerful from the slave trade, from the rum trade spawned by slavery, and from the textiles made using cotton grown by slaves.
The North—like the South— was an old hag as well as a beautiful woman.
The North—as well as the South—needed to listen to the belief of Harriett Beecher Stowe.
She dramatized the evils of slavery in her abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She ended with this prophecy, reminding America that Jesus “shall break in pieces the oppressor.” She warned Americans that these are “dread words for a nation bearing in her bosom so mighty an injustice.”
She wrote: “Both North and South have been guilty before God; and the Christian Church has a heavy account to bear.” Unless the North and the South took the path of “repentance, justice, and mercy,” she prophesied that the “injustice and cruelty” of slavery in America would bring “the wrath of Almighty God.”
The North—as well as the South—needed to listen to the perspective of President Lincoln.
Speaking near the end of the Civil War in his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln saw that “in the providence of God” He gave “both North and South, this terrible war . . . . until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”
Therefore, let’s not spend so much time boasting about the ways we are good that we can’t hear about the ways we are bad.
Let’s stop demonizing those who have different beliefs, viewpoints and perspectives.
Let’s stop ignoring our own hypocrisy about how we gain wealth and power in bad ways.
Each of us needs to stop being a politician—whether in our government, our religion, our business, our family, or in any other endeavor. We need to stop deceptions that deceive and divide. We need to stop listening to argue.
Arguing with people paves the way to the broad, easy paths that lead to destruction!
Instead, each of us needs to become a statesman. We need to welcome differing beliefs, viewpoints, and perspectives. We need to listen to understand.
Listening to people paves the way to the narrow, hard paths that lead to a civilization that is good—that is very good!
We need to follow the advice of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Remove the plank from our own eye so we can see clearly to remove specks from the eyes of others. (Matthew 7:3-5).
Let’s stop listening to argue. Let’s start listening to understand.
I learned the importance of “Don’t listen to argue. Listen to understand.” from the noted author, preacher, and teacher, Rev. Leroy Barber, when he spoke at a retreat on February 11, 2017 on the topic of Diversity and Racial Reconciliation.
For ideas related to those in this blog, please read my book, Visions of America (published with Visions of the Church), at pages 35-37; 43-46; and 49-52.