Standing in generosity

I just peeked into a thread of Facebook comments. Given some of the people involved the trajectory was fairly predictable. It began with what appeared to be a genuine attempt at nuance, and quickly unraveled into pejorative dissing of caricatured positions.

Once again the ideal straw man is set up and gets set ablaze with aplomb.

It is tiresome, and normally I simply avoid even glancing at such conversations, but this was a fairly new addition to my ‘friend’ list and I am curious about the position she is taking on a particular topic.

What if, instead of attacking those who we presume to be coming from a different position, we adopt a position of curiosity? What if we dare to presume that actually the vast majority of people really do want the best for the greatest number of people?

I am not talking here about the extremist minority who seem to want destruction. I am talking about friends, colleagues, coworkers and students who do want a good outcome.

Let me be very clear, I’m not talking about the ultimate resolution, I have nothing to offer there. But can we avoid colluding with destructive forces? Can we recognise that there is a particular kind of stress present in the world at the moment which makes it so much harder to hear different viewpoints?

There is clearly a strong division in opinion as to the best way to get to a better future. But what if we can approach those who hold a different opinion to our own with curiosity (again this is not a strategy for those who are either violent or intimidating). What if we dare to presume that their position is actually considered?

We are all struggling at the moment. If we wait to be treated with respect and generosity before we step forward, we are likely to be waiting a long time. What if we dare to take the first step? What if we dare to say ‘I’m curious, what do you mean when say that?’ And then just listen.

5 thoughts on “Standing in generosity

  1. It IS hard to stay open against the fearful, the unpredictable, but that balance of curiosity over judgment and re-action might be the most important action we can take.

    I am thinking of Richard Kearney’s work on hospitality esp in “Anatheism” as I write this and commend it to you and your readers.

  2. Life is not easy and never has been; however, we are in this together and we need to assume the best of others. When we do that and follow your suggestions, we may not see great changes but we will know that we are not adding to the problem but that we are trying to bring a solution by listening to each other. People need to feel that someone is listening. Thanks for this post Mags.

  3. I agree with your post, Mags. My stance is that at all times, without compromising what we believe to be true, it is right to be kind. We do not know where another person is coming from, or the stage they are at in their journey. I enjoy hearing other people’s opinions on all matters. There is always something to learn.

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