DE Ponderings, November 2016

From the IL/WI District November Newsletter

A Ted talk I recently watched states that we often begin divergent dialogue with each other at the wrong place. We frequently begin with political correctness. Political correctness requires us to be careful what we say, to be forthright but smoothing off the edges of sharpness. If we speak in politically correct ways, then we cause less harm to the other whose views are distinctly different. However, being politically correct may leave room for misinterpretation. Those in dialogue then begin to speak past one another, unsure of what the other has said. What is intended as unharmful can be misinterpreted as disrespect.

To start with political correctness focuses on issues, subjects, matters of fact. What this beginning place misses, or bypasses, is the value of the other and their emotional state. So, according to the TED talk, the better place to start is with emotional correctness. At this level of dialogue, the emphasis is placed on trying to understand from what emotional place the other is coming. So instead of trying to understand the meaning of the position taken, there is more effort given to understand what causes the other to reach such a conclusion. For example, maybe an experience in life is affecting their reasoning. Rather than having the other articulate a particular belief system, effort is better given to listening and asking questions to learn about the other’s emotional state. In so doing, a connection is made at a much deeper relational level. We see the other as a human being, valued not for their position but for their personhood.

Granted, this approach does not change the mind of the other. Granted, this approach will not bring you immediately, or ever, into agreement. But it does bring you in touch with the humanity, there is opportunity to exist together not on the grounds of belief, but on the basis of our humanness.

I found this TED talk helpful. I find emotional correctness a concept more in line with the value of Jesus. Jesus was, in my view, always more concerned about the emotional welfare of a person than the correctness of their ways and views. For example, in the culture of Jesus’ time, a politically correct lifestyle was to not engage in an adulteress affair. When a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus and condemned for her actions, Jesus peered into the woman’s emotions. He saw in her a human of value and greater potential. He met her on the level of her emotional plane and extended grace, opening the door to know her for more than her identity as an adulterer. Jesus saw her humanity and offered to be in relationship with the whole of her personhood. She was spared harm. She was given life. She could live with peace, peace that passes all understanding.

Jesus was, in my view, always more concerned about the emotional welfare of a person than the correctness of their ways and views.

Oh that we would enter into the emotional being of each other, to understand, to find our common humanity, to extend grace, and to live at and in peace with all. This seems like a good place to begin…and end.


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