When someone says “We” and someone else knows that there isn’t real heartfelt agreement, what’s needed is a pause. Otherwise, low trust follows.
Either side can press pause. Both sides must respect the other’s right to take exception. Of course, this moment can be difficult for both sides, and courage is needed. Nonetheless, communities that love each other can have an agreement, sometimes tacitly, or better yet, openly, that anyone at anytime can press pause and request exploring deeper. When the culture of a community permits this sort of moment, even celebrates it, dread diminishes and people are much less likely to resort to gossip and sneaking around to strengthen their own position behind others’ backs. Every group’s health can be partly judged by how easily anyone can press pause on a presumptuous we. This is not a technique; it is a basic ingredient of love. Groups that do not give themselves freedom to do this violate the freedom that love gives.
This is not a technique; it is a basic ingredient of love. Groups that do not give themselves freedom to do this violate the freedom that love gives.
Pressing pause does not mean that people stop serving each other. In fact, one of the beautiful things about this moment is that people can choose to continue acting in ways that serve the other side. What does change, however, is that there is no pretense that the needs, perspectives, or feelings are the same for everyone. This state cannot go on forever; it’s transitional. This service is a gift; a gift that enables a community hanging together to go deeper in GYVE. Without this gift, the community is destined to swiftly fracture.
Yours and Mine
Once pause is pressed, two individuals or groups can choose to go deeper instead of rushing forward. This can be done by three successive questions, each of which leads to more deeply understanding each other and, possibly, mutual compassion. They progressively break the power of a presumptuous we and pave the way for a new, authentic we that takes account of both sides.
The first question simply asks, “How are you and I different? Your perspective – how is it different than mine? Your needs – how are they different than mine? Your feelings?” Perhaps it is also important to ask if we have different roles in the discussion (i.e. regarding leadership involvement and thus power differentials). Perhaps one of the parties is more vulnerable to certain outcomes. These are both different kinds of needs.
Comparing the different needs, one side to another, is sometimes necessary, but often fraught with difficulty. However, Jesus seemed to consistently weigh conflicting needs by considering whose needs made them most vulnerable.
Jesus seemed to consistently weigh conflicting needs by considering whose needs made them most vulnerable.
The needs of the priest to get to his destination were clearly outweighed by the needs of the man laying bleeding beside the road. The point of this parable was to notice and respond to vulnerability. However, comparing needs can set us up for a competition between apples and oranges, so to speak, and can introduce an element of trying to outdo each other: whose need is more valid?
Because GYVE attempts to create a gentle differentiation of needs based on the hope that, later on in the process, room may be made for both sets of needs, it is often better to leave the comparative weighing of needs for the deeper levels. There it can be done with both more accuracy and compassion.
Yours and mine must be gentle and patient, with no hurried push to get quickly back to we. If there is impatience in getting through this phase, back to being able to generalize again, it backfires. The differences that emerge become like trench warfare, stubbornly dug-in positions from which and to which assaults are made – and now with more accuracy. It is in this moment that we must persistently refuse to try to convince each other with pressure.
In simple situations, obvious room needs to be made for the others’ differences. In such a case, an authentic we can be reformed at this level, integrating both sides. More often, however, in any deep discussion, the parties cannot rest simply recognizing differences. We must know why they are important to each other. Thus, we ask each other the question that drops us down to the third level of GYVE: “Why is that position important to you?” This is about what we value in our heart.
Behind every significant difference revealed as we explore Yours and Mine, there is a deeper fear or a hope, something our heart is running from or towards. To put this into words and to reveal it to someone at apparent cross-purposes with us is bold; it is giving your adversary a gift and treating them with great dignity and respect.
it is giving your adversary a gift and treating them with great dignity and respect.
“Why is this important to you?” must be followed by “Here is why it is important to me.” If honest sharing is not done by both sides at this level, it has the potential for one side to stay aloof.
This is a depth where it is indeed possible for a sort of miracle of compassion to emerge. It does not occur often above this depth. It comes in a moment when that which was formerly at odds with one’s needs, purposes, or perspectives suddenly seems valid at a heart level. It may not be obvious how the differences can exist in our life together, but in a moment like this we know deeply, in our heart, that our adversary has a profoundly valid reason in their heart. You begin to see with their eyes and while you cannot always agree with the positions they have built upon this value, heart meets heart, and you recognize common ground. When this happens, it is truly a work of the Spirit of God.
This doesn’t always happen at this level. The depths of compassion may still evade us. We may express a value but still withhold how our life has formed around it. We can avoid sharing the landscape of our life despite stating what we value. Drop down, then, a final level. Ask, “Where did that become important to you? In which events or relationships did that value form?”
>> Missed the teaching our sermon series “Fixed On Jesus” Part 1: Our Essentials, or on Part 2: In all Things Charity (GYVE)? You can listen to the audio here.