07 June 2006

Growing Together

Sort of a follow-up to my "Weary of Well-Speaking" post: As I said in the comments, one of the reasons I am irritated by debaters is they are taught to win arguments, not to search for truth. The more I think about it, the more I see the reoccurance of this problem in society. Aside from the obvious example of politicians, I am specifically thinking about this principle as it applies to marriage and other personal relationships. At institute tonight (the Marriage and Family series--no great wonder), we discussed at length the yoke metaphor used by the Savior in Matthew 11:28-30:

28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
One implication of the metaphor struck me as particularly relevant to what I've been trying to get at recently: If one ox in a yolk pushes too strongly for his own way, rather than following the Lord's way, not only does the team deviate from the path, but they can end up going in circles. When we fight too hard for our own ideas and decisions, it is often at the expense of progress, change, and growth. If instead we are meek about our own ideas and work with the Lord, He will guide our progress in the desired direction.

Of course, this analogy translates not only to our relationship with the Lord, or to a relationship with a future spouse, but really to any relationship in our lives, including parents, roommates, siblings, and friends. Really, the point where we seem to get into trouble in a relationship is where we want things "my way" without bothering to understand the possibility of an "our way." Talking escalates to contention when we set as our ground rule that we are right.

In most arguments of my experience, the phrase "Listen to me" or "Are you listening?" or some variant usually comes up. Well, that's a silly question. If you weren't listening, there wouldn't be an argument going on. What they really mean to ask is "What you are listening for?" Are you listening merely to catch the weak points of their position, so best to plan your next attack when they finally finish, and, assuming they ever stop spouting such utter nonsense, you'll set them straight on the facts? Or are you listening with understanding, to truly comprehend what has led to your differences in position, to find the common ground, the truth behind the conflict? When we are seeking for a good solution for both parties, arguments dissolve into discussions, contention into compromise, confusion into construction.

It's similar to the idea behind my Circle Theory and Habit #4 of Covey's Seven Habits. The secret behind both greater intelligence and more successful relationships is the same: learning to think of opposing views not as the enemy, but as a partner, realizing that compromising can be growth instead of loss. When instead of attacking our political opponents, we sit down with them, get to know the beliefs behind their views; when instead of becoming frustrated with our parent's pushy-ness or old-fashioned-ideas, we understand their motivations and principles; when we not only understand others' beliefs, but come to believe them as well, it is then that the true growth starts.

If we continue to divide humanity into smaller and smaller groups according to who agrees with us, we will end up with nothing. But when we seek to include others, and most importantly the Lord, in our search for right, our ability to grow together borders on the infinite. Division is only necessary for definition of problems, not for truth. Once we have divided, it is our duty to once again build and grow together. If we are not one, well, you know. . . .


bawb said...

I like it. You should read Bonds that Make Us Free. I'll loan it to you, even, if you like.

Katherine said...

Interesting. I've actually been thinking lately about what I listen for in conversations--too often I catch myself looking for weak points and planning counter-arguments rather than trying to understand (as you probably know).

And I second the recommendation for Bonds that Make Us Free. I haven't made it through the entire book, but the parts I have read are excellent.