The debate between friends was well underway. As I listened to the two positions, I caught myself. Were the arguments that different? Where was the point of departure? If I was candid, there were two perspectives that only differed with time and experience. Both were valid if one accepted a particular starting point.
Once I realized that the only difference was where one began, taking sides was easy. They were both wrong! It is not that I had view I wanted to use to convince either of them. I would rather build a consensus than when a debate. The question at hand was the assumptions and knowledge that went into the discussion. The reset question that I asked both was direct; what is the background and story to the beginning of your perspective?
I realize that my question was more complex than it needed to be. The primary purpose was to stop the current debate. I needed to have them refocus. If they did that, sharing the beginning of their story would help highlight what was shared as well as clarify what was different. As the stories began, the differences began to be morph from points of contention to opportunities for discovery and sharing. It was a wonderful change to the heated debate.
As I look back to the conversation, I realize that I need to listen to the questions I ask others. When I have a contrarian view, do I understand the perspective of the other? Am I willing to look at their story through their eyes? My goal is not to find a weapon that I can sue to win the debate. My aspiration is to understand and in understanding, learn. From experience, everyone has a learning s/he can share.
In a story, Paul was facing a challenge. His response took the debate back to the beginning. “We who are on missionary assignments for God have a right to decent accommodations, and we have a right to support for us and our families.” (1 Corinthians 9.4)
Starting a conversation with others changes everything.