Joel Hawksley / / ←home

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening) by Sarah Steward Holland and Beth Silvers

I’ve struggled during the past year to have empathy for people that have different beliefs than I do. I’ve found myself feeling resentful, angry, and frustrated. This book opened my eyes to the privilege of having a point of view supported by society and how common approaches to political dialog are fraught with pitfalls.

Division isn’t a requirment

There is an assumption that political debate should be along party lines. A lot of problems result from this perspective. It creates an environment where it is difficult to escape the confines of what we’re supposed to believe based on our political affiliations. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Our beliefs are out of date

We form our political beliefs as children based on our experiences and what our families believe. The world is changing all the time, but our beliefs often don’t take that change into account.

Controversy vs. values

We tend to subsitute controversy for values. We fail to consider why we care about an issue, let alone why we hold the position we do. Why does the thought of abortion or Obamacare make our blood boil?

Start with a common denominator

To get curious about eachother, we have to get a baseline agreement on the reality of the situation.

Start by defining terms together. Come up with a small shared glossary on the topic of debate. Often this process will highlight how out of date and shallow our knowledge is about the topic of debate.

Science and religion are complements

We should strive to see scientific and religious reasoning as two halves of a whole, which illuminate different portions of reality.

Comfort with discomfort

Somewhere along the way, we decided as a country that we don’t want to be uncomfortable at any time, for any reason. […] We don’t like uncomfortable air travel or hotel rooms. […] We don’t exercise because we don’t want to be uncomfortable.

We optimize discomfort out of our lives. Thermostats, shoes, warm showers. On a physical level, this makes things like going for a run more difficult due to our aversion to discomfort.

A builder or a wrecker

Perhaps the most powerful part of this book was its inclusion of a poem written by Charles Franklin Benvegar, called A Builder or a Wrecker:

As I watched them tear a building down A gang of men in a busy town With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled, And the men you’d hire if you wanted to build?” He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed, Just common labor is all I need.”

“I can easily wreck in a day or two, What builders have taken years to do.” And I thought to myself, as I went my way Which of these roles have I tried to play’

Am I a builder who works with care, Measuring life by rule and square? Am I shaping my work to a well-made plan Patiently doing the best I can’

Or am I a wrecker who walks to town Content with the labor of tearing down? “O Lord let my life and my labors be That which will build for eternity!”

As we navigate this fraught political landscape, are we being builders or wreckers?