Disagreements often boil down to perspective. There are two sides to every story. I think this is something everyone instinctively knows. Parents share the common experience of having a child come up to them, upset, crying, indignantly complaining that “so and so did such and such!” So and so, however, has a significantly different account, blaming the first child. This alerts us that there might even be more than two sides to a story. I once heard it said there are three: (1) your side, (2) my side, and (3) the truth!
Listening well is essential to civil society and for all relationships. You may have seen the meme, which goes, “My girlfriend yelled at me today saying, “You weren’t even listening to me were you?” I thought, “Man, what a weird way to start a conversation.” Listening well is a skill we all need to develop. We all know that men and women communicate in different ways. Unless a couple in a relationship is aware of this, it leads to inevitable conflicts.
A recent Harvard Business School article asks “Has Listening Become a Lost Art?” (source). I think that many in relationships, and those who observe political and religious discourse today would agree that it is indeed a lost art. But it is a lost hart that need to be resurrected. There is a piece of biblical wisdom that says, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Is seems that flashes of anger are often born of a failure to really listen to a conversation partner.
Listening Well in Conflict Resolution/Avoidance
Do you wish you had less conflict in your relationships? How about in politics? or religion? Have you ever been involved in a divorce, business lawsuit, or other legal conflict? Listening well may help you avoid, or lessen the challenge of any of these conflicts. One business website argues:
Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood. As a result, communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated (Source).
Listening Well in Relationships
Psychologist Susan Heitler writes that “listeners is loving”:
When people talk about having a “great relationship,” they in large part are referring to how openly they listen to each other, plus how much positive feedback they give each other.
As a parent, this is one of the best things I learned about interacting with my children. They can easily get frustrated and upset when they don’t feel like they have been understood. Simply listening has de-escalated many parenting conflicts in our family.
Listening Well in Political Dialogue and Religious Discussions
Anyone browsing social media, perhaps (un)social media knows that many commentators talk past one another. As Trevin Wax concludes: “If it seems like too often we are talking past one another, the truth is, we usually are.” (the gospel coalition)
Listen Well in Law
One of the greatest benefits of a law school education, is its insistence that there are two sides to nearly every conflict. The courts are one place in which this conflict is played out. But mediation is also a popular way of resolving conflicts.
Mediation is basically just listening to one another with a mediator who facilitating effective communication. On research journal reports: “A study of 449 cases administered by four major providers of ADR services showed that mediation was capable of settling 78 percent of cases.” (source)
So, how can you listen well? I would suggest the first thing to do is shift your attitude in any conversation. What are you doing when you talk to someone? You are not lecturing, you are not debating–usually. To converse, both parties must listen, otherwise they will find themselves simply talking over one another.
The GoodFaith blog is my attempt to think through issues of faith, family, books, and culture in a way that stimulates deeper thought, important conversation, and spiritual growth. After a decade of pastoral experience, I returned to school. I did this, in part, to help myself and the church better understand and engage with our culture. What’s in a name? For me, the name of the blog communicates a desire to engage honestly with significant issues. I hope to do so with integrity, or a just regard for the viewpoints of others (those whose ideas I engage with, my readers, and the church). It is my hope that people will join me in thinking deeply about things that matter without ever compromising the good faith.
Good faith is a term used to summarize an organizing principle of contract and commercial law. A duty of good faith is a duty to act honestly and with just regard for the commits made to another party. I see a parallel in the Christian faith.
What do Christians believe about marriage? Too often the church has been known by what she is against. This is a shame because Christianity is more about the positive than the negative. Aristotle talks about the good life. He explains that there are many ways to live and many ways to live, but there is a ‘best way to live.’ Jesus knows what the best way to live, and his gospel calls us to enter into this good life.
Today people might find themselves single, considering marriage, married, divorced, or remarried. Christianity is not so much concerned about a person’s relationship status. Christianity is concerned with the gospel, the good news of the good life in Jesus (John 10:10). Christianity preaches a positive message. No matter what your relationship status, or preference, Jesus has a message for you. Scripture meets us where we are at and shows us what is the best life for us.
What Did Jesus Beleive about Marriage?
Gain wisdom because it is vitally important. “[T]hrough wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.” (Proverbs 6:9). It is “literally, a matter of life and death” (Durant, p. x). But what is wisdom? Merriam Webster describes wisdom as the “ability to discern inner qualities and relationships” (source). Dictionary (dot) com provides a more complete definition, calling wisdom “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or rightcoupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight” (source).
Gain Wisdom in History
Philosophy is a transliteration carried over from Greek, meaning, “lover of wisdom.” But we use it today to speak of a body of wisdom. Usually we use philosophy to speak of the ideas of a lover of wisdom. So when Will Durant writes The Story of Philosophy: The lives and opinions of the world’s greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey (Amazon; .ca; .co.uk), he is writing on, “literally, a matter of life and death” (p x).
What do we mean when we call God a Trinity, and why does it matter? For the Christian tradition, the Trinity explains love, life, the universe, and pretty much everything. The word describes God, as a Tri-Unity, a Three and One. The Trinity focuses on the relationship of three divine Persons, in the one divine Being (Learn more: A Crash Course). It sounds pretty conceptual and impractical. However, in the Christian tradition the Trinity is the most practical and essential of Christian Doctrines.
The Trinity is the Framework of the most basic affirmation of faith, the Baptismal formula: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty… and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord [and] in the Holy Spirit” (The Apostles Creed). Without understanding the Trinity rightly, we will have a wrong understanding of our origins, of our destiny, and of our purpose. We would not understand love and life would be meaningless. This is very practical knowledge. But what is this belief? How can we understand the Trinity, and how can this be practical? We need the help of a genius! Fortunately, church history provides several geniuses who have explained the Trinity very clearly and practically.
The Message of Easter is about hope. It is good news. Easter is an undeniable, essential and critical message of the church. But what is this celebration all about? What does it mean?
The Message of Easter
I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you … [W]hat I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b]and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep … 10 this is what we preach, and this is what you believed (1 Corinthians 15:1-6, 10).
Read more about the resurrection here.
What is good Friday? Good Friday is the day the Church reflects on the death of the Son of God, who came for us and for our salvation. We do not call Good Friday “good” because it was a good and pleasant day. We call it good, because of what it accomplished. One ancient eye-witness recorded the facts of that day in Mathew 27:27-54. I explore the meaning of the facts below.
He was a scholar and a cultural influencer. March 21st marks the anniversary of his Martyrdom. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) is one of the historical figure(s) I most want to meet.
He was burned alive for holding to the gospel by Queen “Bloody” Mary. She didn’t love him. But others did.
J.I. Packer’s Knowing God (Amazon; .ca; .co.uk) taught me that theology “is the most practical project anyone can engage in” (p. 17). Even in conversing with this book, I was able to put this proposition to the test at three very critical times in my life; undergraduate studies, marriage, and career. In each case, Packer brought forward wisdom that shaped my studies, shaped my approach to marriage and shaped my career choices.
Knowing God: A Transforming Text
This post is part of a series of my reflections on transforming texts–the books that have changed my life the most. These books have become conversation parters with me. I credit them with shaping my thinking, my desires, and my life. I think they will change your life too. When I think of the Bible as a transforming text, I adopt the language of Erasmus: “You must acquire the best knowledge first, and without delay; it is the height of madness to learn what you will later have to unlearn.” (Letter to Christian Northoff (1497), as translated in Collected Works of Erasmus (1974))