drawing the line, part 4 (and done, for now!)

Amid conflict with others where do I draw the line between compassion, recognizing and respecting their right to their views, and challenging their positions, confronting them?

The more I reflect on my question, an essential, perhaps the most important word is “I”. Desiring to live faithfully, responsibly, I am accountable and answerable for my intentions and my actions to my Creator, all creation, and all with whom I am in relation, which, for me, means everyone – however alike or dissimilar, whether at peace or in conflict. This realization (or re-realization) leads me to review and revise (for brevity’s sake) Principles of Engagement of “The Other”, which I composed following my sabbatical some years ago.[1] These principles are the bedrock of my practice of living as I seek to do, to be the love and justice of Jesus in my relations with others.

Personal Encounter – meeting and being with another, seeking mutual understanding via sharing our individual stories that reflect our life experiences, revealing who we are and how we perceive reality.

Empathy – feeling, being in (in addition to sympathy’s feeling with) another.

Suspension of Judgment – empathy’s fruit; listening intently “outside my box” of my worldview, the framework of my history and memory, native instinct and attained insights, and established patterns of discernment.

Commonality – another fruit of empathy; seeking, listening for common elements of our human experience.

Inevitability of Conflict – as it is impossible for me to step completely outside of my self, any encounter with another always reveals differences and the potential for disagreement.[2]

Self-Examination – being able and willing to be self-critical in the awareness that I do not possess all (or the) truth, but rather only my truth.


[1] During my August 2006-January 2007 sabbatical (Twenty-First Century Evangelism: Conversation, Not Conversion), I went out into a pluralistic world of competing, at times, conflicting peoples and perspectives seeking to discern whether the Christian church (a) could re-imagine or re-envision evangelism, the primary aim no longer, as traditionally understood, being the conversion of “the other” to Christianity, but rather, conversing with “the other” for purposes of mutual understanding, (b) without sacrificing the integrity of Christian identity, and (c) whilst remaining attuned to the voice, which in the midst of the conversation may say, “Please tell me more about your Jesus,” thereby signaling the possibility of a transition from an engagement in conversation to an experience of conversion.

[2] In this awareness, I can choose to engage conflict creatively: (a) recognizing conflict as unremarkable, indeed, normal, (b) responding with calm acceptance, and (c) using conflict as a lens to see myself more clearly, that is, through the eyes of another.

2 thoughts on “drawing the line, part 4 (and done, for now!)

  1. Paul,

    This is an incredibly powerful way to end this series!! As much as I loved your Engagement piece, I had forgotten about it so THANK YOU for this piece!!

    Personal Encounters and Commonality have been two of the largest components of engagement with the other for me. The personal
    encounters I’ve had with people across this country have been astounding! People I would never, ever have encountered had it not been for my book. That process of meeting all types of people has allowed me to suspend judgement unless you give me reason to judge you (which rarely happens now).

    As you know commonality for me is meeting people from all walks of life with whom I have nothing in common except a loved one with dementia. During our times together none of us care about race or the election or war …. We only care about finding a cure for dementia. I never realized how powerful commonality could be! I’ve become friends on FB that there wouldn’t have been a chance in Hell that I’d be friends with had I not met them in person and bonded over our commonality!!

    Again, I thank you for this reminder of your amazing sabbatical work!


    • Amen, sister, amen! I applaud you, your book, your sharing your story, now, around the nation, and your bonding with folk in the common interest of caring for loved ones with dementia and for their caregivers and finding a cure. This, I believe, is the magnetic power of a cause, a movement. And, thanks be to God, yours is a positive and powerful cause and movement. Carry on!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s