Every statement you and I make carries a premise. Sometimes I know the premise that my words support, clarify, or echo, other times I don't. Most of the time, I rarely think about it. The one time the question quickly reveals itself is when I am in a difficult conversation. It is then that I find myself seeking to understand the other person's premise as well as my own. If we share a premise, differences are easy to overcome. If I do not understand what their premise is, or my own, then it is time to stop and explore. Equally true, if I am not sure of why, it is time to open myself up to the possibilities. In every case, the premise behind the words is critically important if one wants to understand the intent of the conversation.
At my best, I hate to argue. On any given day, intense conversations find their way into my life for all kinds of reasons. I wish I could say that I never helped the process along. Candidly, I create far more challenging conversations than I avoid. I find that there are three primary reasons for this. First, I assume I understand the other person's premise. If the data fits, it must be true. Second, my natural instinct is to win. Third, I like things to fit my premise. It is easier to read and see life when my assumptions and expectations are validated than to consider something new.
I am not the first. In the middle of an intense conversation, one side noted “Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.'” (Acts 4.10) I wonder if anyone involved really understood the challenge to the conversation. Even though the theological premise is easy to read from a distance, I am not so sure the heart of our conversations today are any more obvious.
We have the opportunity to answer anger with mercy, justice with compassion, and exclusiveness with acceptance. Each cornerstone is simply a premise until you and I put it to use.
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