“We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.” ~ The Talmud
When coaching leadership teams, one of the foundational agreements we make going into the work is “Everybody gets to be right…partially.” For any team to become fully empowered and effective, this agreement is essential, because it allows for the basic fact that nobody sees the complete picture of any situation or challenge facing the team, and that every person’s perspective includes some truth that the team needs to hear and integrate into its decision-making.
Beneath the clever verbiage, it’s really just a way of agreeing to be humble with each other…to not assume that you (and you alone) have all the answers and see everything perfectly, or that “they” (that is, whoever sees things differently) are utterly misguided and wrong (and possibly evil) and have nothing of value to teach you at all.
This principle, so vital for teams, also holds true for families, churches, communities, nations, even humanity as a whole.
The source of division in any of these relational systems is the one who is convinced that he is completely right and has nothing of value to learn from any perspective that differs from his own. This is, in fact, the root cause of all religious division, hatred, and war.
It is simply Pride.
“But what about the Bible?” many of my fellow Christ followers would say. “God has revealed truths that we are called to stand on, and stand for, unwavering.”
Yes, and so we should. But having the Bible doesn’t mean we have everything all figured out now, does it? Even with the Bible, none of us understands God and truth perfectly. Having the Bible doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to discover about life or love or God, that there are no more questions for us, no more mysteries, no room for anyone to teach us anything. Does it?
Of course not. In fact, the Bible admonishes us to remember that for now we see things as “in a mirror dimly” and know truth only “in part” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Perhaps that’s why, when dealing with people outside our faith, the Bible instructs us:
“Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” ~ Romans 12:16b-17 NAS
As Christ followers, then, we have ample reason to engage humbly and with respect those who come from a different worldview than our own, being careful not to vilify them or assume that they have nothing to teach us about life, about ourselves, even about God.
I love this quote I recently read from Lynne Hybels, which she wrote after returning from one of her trips to the Middle East:
“The longer I live and the further I travel and the more I see and experience of the brokenness of life, the more I realize that every encounter and every relationship goes better when we approach it from a position of love. I don’t think love means that we have to agree about everything. But I think it means that we listen hard, and that we do our best to understand the fears, the frustrations, the dreams, the worldview, and the experience of ‘the other.’ And while we listen, we pray that God will open the eyes of our hearts and expand the capacity of our minds. And we pray that the Spirit, the passion, and the redemptive work of Jesus will have its way in us and in the world.” ~ Lynne Hybels
What is it to engage humbly and with respect people who don’t see the world as you do?