Quite frankly, we live in a world plagued by ignorance. Hear me out.
BY COLE PARRISH
I don’t use this terminology to insult or offend anyone, but rather to signify a lack of awareness and understanding.
Personally, I’ve always struggled with ignorance because I’ve been too concerned with being right. In fact, this is an ongoing struggle. My tendency is to assume my perspective is correct, my experience is the only authentic one, my culture is the only true culture, while all others are wrong or somehow lacking. Truth is, this is arrogance, which is where ignorance is born and inevitably thrives.
We divide ourselves based on differences of opinion (i.e. Republican/Democrat, Christian/Muslim, Pro-Life/Pro-Choice, etc.). It doesn’t end with these distinctions and sub-groups. We increase the division by criticizing and dehumanizing the alternative perspective to justify our stance.
This reality feeds the disastrous effects of ignorance. So, what do we do? How do we cure this disease?
One answer comes from the wisdom of philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (one of the best takeaways for me from seminary).
He uses the illustration of six blind men in a room with an elephant to emphasize the importance of conversation. Where each man stands dictates their experience because they are unable to see and grasp the elephant in its entirety. No man has a complete view.
Here is the game changer:
If the six men would have a conversation, humbly listen to one another, share their own experiences, and ask critical questions in an effort to truly seek understanding, they could arrive at a more complete and whole picture of the elephant in the room.
The same is true for us.
As humans, we are limited by our own culture, tradition, and experience. The world is huge. And like the men experiencing the elephant, we too are limited by our physical location. We each see through a specific and distinct lens. Therefore, conversation is essential to expand our worldview.
Unfortunately, our world suffers from an inability to have a conversation. We tend to put up walls when interacting with someone on the other side of an issue. Put simply, we tend to engage with those like-minded and avoid those with whom we disagree. Therefore, we have to debunk the myth that one side of the discussion is completely right and the other side is all wrong.
I think of James, the half brother of Jesus, because he knew the importance of conversation. He says in James 1:19, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” He sees each of these as fundamental elements of conversation, which starts with listening. He knows if our minds are too preoccupied with a response or if we let ourselves get angry, we cut ourselves off from listening. If we cannot listen, we cannot learn or embrace something new.
If you are anything like me, your instinct is to do the opposite. Slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger. However, we have to fight this inclination because when we truly practice listening we grow in awareness.
Awareness leads to action and action ultimately drives change.
So set your pride aside — you don’t know it all, none of us do. Be humble, fight ignorance, and engage in a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. It’s not our natural tendency, but you will be amazed by what you discover.
Change starts with conversation.
Cole Parrish is a pastor at Real Life Church in Santa Clarita, California. He is finishing his M.A.T. at Fuller Theological Seminary with an emphasis in Ethics. He has a passion for justice, specifically in the realm of racial reconciliation. You can connect with him on Instagram @coleparrish_ and Twitter @ColeParrish_.