Since the November election many savvy American commentators have sagely noted that we are a divided country.

“Do ya think?”

The odds of running into people who think the opposite of what you do about politics are about fifty-fifty.

So what do you do when faced with a person espousing different views from your own?

How about if you say, “Will you tell me more about that?”

It’s a great line, the kind of verbiage that can help us all immensely, the kind of language that can help us to just get on with it, with the understanding part, without someone getting hurt.

Not every adversative is a casus belli.

When people say something that we disagree with socially, epistemologically, theologically — or God forbid, politically — when inside we react to that dissonant point-of-view fast-breathingly, jaw-clenchingly and froth-mouthingly, then I suggest that we all — including myself — stay seated, and that we lean in toward our perceived opponent, that we place our forearms on our knees in an open and relaxed posture, that we nod in a positive and inviting manner and looking straight into their ignorant, narrow-minded, uninformed eyes we say gently, “Tell me more about that.”

Here is the deal, for me and for you, oh wise ones,  first just, “Be quiet!” Do that to protect your hearts — and to give space for understanding and to protect other people’s sense of safety in our presence.

There will be plenty of opportunites to say what we think — which of course is okay to do, and which of course we will do at appropriate times — but first let’s take control of ourselves, first let’s stop thinking of what we want to say back, and then let’s go at it by asking questions, so we can breathe again. First let’s go into listening mode, first try to understand, first be curious, open, calm, investigative, smart.

Why?

We tend not to understand the other side — too much. We tend to think we are right — too much. We tend to argue when we should learn — too much. To get smart, to do well, to keep our friends — our work or school colleagues —  to keep our families together, to keep our churches together, to make new friends, to not have stress disorders and to get more wise and sagey, we need to open ourselves to people who think differently than we do.

It is a mark of maturity to listen to, to like, to love and even to adore people we disagree with. It is a mark of a good thinker to listen to all sides. The ancient, trustworthy and wise Holy Scripture itself tells us that true wisdom is “open to reason.”

Listening doesn’t mean we have to change our perspectives, our opinions or our values. It just means that we are open to understanding someone else’s viewpoint. This so helps; it helps us not to run off the steep and scary cliff of trying to make everyone else think like we do.

They won’t, much, or they will, sometimes, or not.

Give it a rest.

How do we survive the divisions in our country?

We get smart; we get back to learning from and about each other.

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