Today a friend asked me if I knew of any good sources of information for a subject she was researching. I couldn’t help her with that. I did, however, have a tip for her on sorting through the mountain of information available online. Here goes.
When you find someone that is so strongly biased to their opinion on something that they bash other people for disagreeing with them, scrap their information. If they are bashing other people’s viewpoints you can bet that they have checked their ability to continue learning at the door, a long time ago. It takes an open mindedness to learn. An openness to ideas. And if they don’t respect ideas they don’t agree with, they are no longer good at learning. They may be right, but it would be by accident.
Guess what, my friend laughed at me. She found my tip comical. I am glad I made her laugh, but this is something I think is fairly important in life.
I have been accused of having no moral absolutes on a few occasions. And when I asked why they thought so, it always had to do with me not bashing another’s idea enough, or me not getting upset enough when someone disagrees. One guy even said that he found it troubling that I could engage in calm, open conversation with anyone, regardless of how wrong their beliefs were.
Honestly, I almost laughed at that point, but I do want to respect their opinion too. Respect doesn’t mean that you accept it as your own. Respect doesn’t mean you agree. Respect does, however, realize that all of us can be wrong, and it doesn’t fault someone with coming to a wrong conclusion. We have all done that. Respect just honours the fact that the information they have and you have may differ.
Respect creates that ground where you can have free and open dialogue. I believe that the Scriptures teach that humility is the starting point for all wisdom. And if I am humble enough to see that I need to learn too, then I don’t need to get upset and try to convince the other guy right now that he is wrong and must change his view immediately. Humility is patient.
Humility is also careful. It recognises that we may be in the wrong too. And no, I don’t believe that humility walks around doubting itself. I believe that humility allows us to ask the questions and to study diligently and as a result, we gain conviction. Conviction is what you get when you have dug through all the information and arrive at the bedrock of truth.
And conviction isn’t scared of being challenged. It realises that if there is information left to be evaluated, it just means that there is firmer ground coming. Humility paves the path to conviction. Conviction is the foundation for confidence. So the most humble person you know, will probably also be incredibly confident, and wise, and loving, and respectful.
I have a friend who, sometimes when she listens to a preacher, will annoy her husband by poking him in the leg and asking: “why is this preacher so angry?” Her husband thought the preacher was just passionate. But there is a difference. My friend’s husband grew up in church. That kind of preaching was normal for him and he thought nothing of it. His wife became a Christian as an adult, and all she heard was her angry father. Everything about how the preacher talked reminded her of when her dad got angry.
I noticed fear. Often when I would hear someone speak, I would ask: “why is he so afraid?” I think we are often afraid of being challenged when we are not humble. Then we form an arrogant opinion, that we protect with everything we have. And when you challenge that opinion, the person gets angry, because it makes him afraid. So he voices his opinion louder and stronger, so you will think he is right and quit challenging him.
You see, sometimes we mistake arrogance for conviction. But where arrogance is afraid and closed off to learning new things, conviction is open and ready to sort through more information if that will allow him to become more grounded. That makes arrogance shaky, and conviction very grounded.
Research shows that the majority of Christians still believe almost exactly what they believed two years into their Christian walk. Some will celebrate that as truth not changing. I think it means we are better at building arrogance than humility into our Christian culture. To me it doesn’t mean that it takes two years to teach a Christian all truth. To me it means that our humility disappears in two years and we are no longer engaged in growing and learning the truth.