We live
in a time in which sound bites are designed to express a world of emotion and perspective
in the fewest possible words. Social media, news tickers, media scrums,
question periods, and press releases are expressions that have become shorter
and denser in recent years. We seldom slow down sufficiently to read long
articles or multi-volume books. Our attention-span is considerably shorter than
that of previous generations. While our ancestors may have sat around a fire
for hours at a time listening to well-told stories, we get our information,
wisdom, and emotional direction from 90 second news updates covering multiple
stories. The incessant speed with which information is presenting itself to us
does not allow for much consideration. Most often our reactions are highly
influenced by the emotions and intensity of the person who gives us the news.
Alternatively, our reactions and emotions default to well-worn channels of our
thought processes that take us in the directions that we have always taken
I was struck by the words of a person who was very good at slowing down and
thinking through concepts with which he was presented. This author, thinker,
and teacher seemed much more able to slow his thoughts sufficiently to get to
the heart of a concept. I found myself desiring to be more like C.S. Lewis. The
following example may help to show you what I mean.
Many of
us struggle with the words “hate the sin, but not the sinner.” This phrase has
been much maligned, and both those who use it and those toward whom it points
feel uneasy in the use of the expression. In the early seventies, C.S. Lewis
found himself struggling with this terminology and so he thought about it long
enough to come up with a solution. He had this to say about it in his extremely
insightful book, Mere Christianity.
“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a
bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin
but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting
distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years
later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this
all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or
conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest
difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I
loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the
sort of man who did those things.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I know that this will not solve the
struggle in using this terminology for every person; C.S. Lewis’ opinion will
not be the last word on any subject. Yet, his thoughts are helpful precisely
because they show that he did not reject a concept quickly. One can tell that
he was uncomfortable with the concept and so he meditated upon it until he
could get at why he was uncomfortable and how he might resolve his discomfort
with a concept that was accepted by others whom he respected. There is a great
deal of humility and a search for unity in the process that Lewis uses.
It seems to me that I might use a similar
technique when it comes to phrases that do not sit well with me. Rather than
using stock answers to sound bites, could I seek a similar humility and search
for the common ground of unity. Might I try this with phrases like, “Black
lives matter,” and “All lives matter”? Could I seek greater respect toward
those whose foundation for truth, morality, or love is different than mine?
It takes a great deal of strength and considerable
time to truly listen to another’s argument and feel it in our bones rather than
simply rejecting it outright. It is much easier to counter one argument with
another argument without truly hearing the other person. In this way, many a
debate between opposing positions has fallen short as we watch the speakers
talk past each other’s understanding and over each other’s heads.
I want to learn to slow down and listen
before formulating my response. I do not want to be guilty of responding with a
half-formulated answer to a concept, rather than thinking upon the words that
have been spoken to me. May God grant me greater peace, greater patience,
greater understanding, greater love, a greater desire to walk a mile in another’s
shoes. Perhaps I might be able to contribute to a better and more unified
Works Cited:
Lewis, C.
(1978). Mere Christianity. Glasgow: William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd.

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