What is it about human nature that often makes it difficult for us to enter a place of uncertainty or at least openness to listen & learn without needing to so quickly prove & convince? What do You think it is that might allow You to open vs close?
I went to a protestant Christian church today where they had invited a man from Pakistan to speak about Islam.
He did a great job of emphasizing how Islam stands for peace, how Judaism, Christianity and Islam are historically three branches of the same tree, and a beautiful job of resolving some potential misunderstandings while establishing common ground. He spoke of the love he felt from Christians that he could take back and speak about.
Almost immediately after, there was a man who got up to establish clearly the differences between the faiths, and to reinforce his own belief in Christianity as what he saw as a clearly superior choice.
Try to reserve judgment and just observe human nature with me. Both had courage to speak in the ways they did.
Still, whatever the context, it seems as if humans need to have some sense of Significance and Certainty. When put in a religious context, and the feeling is that salvation is at stake, perhaps emotions run a little more raw – but it still seems to be need for significance and certainty that drives a lot of the behavior.
What is it about human nature that often makes it difficult for us to enter a place of uncertainty or at least openness to listen & learn without needing to so quickly prove & convince?
It’s exactly what you said… the emotions are more raw in areas people place their beliefs, and often even dedicate their lives to. But I think what the Pakastani gentlemen did to approach the issue was beautiful. Focusing on clairfying misunderstandings (communicating) and working together in the ways we are the same (service and love) are key and all that really matters. Funny I just posted a video on my page about where I talk about that!!
You hit the major issues: people are looking for certainty, and religion tends to teach lessons in an absolute manner that ease that certainty. Throw in the high stakes of eternity and no wonder why we have wars over such things.
I personally think religion generally does a major disservice to the population in this respect, and the resulting irony is that people act in very non-pious ways when dealing with differing belief systems.
Had a blog post some years back that has some relevance, discussing drawbacks of belief: http://hopskid.livejournal.com/19328.html
I think somewhere our approach towards religion is mis-functional. Religions give us pointers to the Truth but we become so obsessed with the pointers that we start to worship them rather than walking the path. Islam and Christianity may have somethings in common and in such a meeting the person will open up the similarities only while avoiding the critical differences. However, the bigger issue is that we feel so very attached to our beliefs that we want to prove that any differences from ‘my belief systems’ means unholy and wrong. Somewhere we need to loosen up this rigidity and allow the openness to co-exist will different systems of thought.
Part of the appeal of religion is that it gives a person an identity. Suddenly, by joining a group they are someone. They have beliefs and values which are all spoken for and understood by the rest. A basic human need is to be judged by others. Group cohesion would be impossible otherwise.
All the fighting about religion, I think, doesn’t have so much to do with the religion itself. The driving force behind these sorts of conflicts and disagreements is pride. People have made up their minds about what they believe in and have pigeon-holed themselves to the point of being irrationally close minded.
With your pride at stake, how easy is it to be open and go to a place where you feel uncertain? The need to justify or prove yourself at this point suddenly becomes very important.
You’re right Clint, it’s striking. Tim says something insightful about identity – it is something that we put on risk. Our identity is shaped precisely when we put our belief in something, and it comes to hold part of our life over water (unless we’re fish!). Identity becomes precisely that something which if we perceive a threat to it, we will move.
During the last years I’ve become more of a Bourdieu scholar than I had expected to. One thing this French sociologist does is explore what he calls “scholastic bias”. People who have studied a lot (and maybe put their identity on risk in that) especially, easily have a bias to treat things as if they were texts. I don’t mean that one wouldn’t dedicate one’s lives to causes, but maybe that some of us have a hidden belief in text over the direct. To some, in some situations, Clint’s question wouldn’t even be a question!
Bourdieu also says that one major result of studies is fostering a belief in the Universal – in treating things as if they are a case of an abstract universal: I think he might be on to something. His own proposed solution – because having access to the universal makes you less vulnerable to domination, at least by those with education… – was to give everybody enough education that they have access to the universal.
There’s maybe a related difference between, as Janelle said above, dedicating one’s life to a cause, even a religion, and to, as Amit suggests, use religion as pointers to find something true? In both cases we’re looking for meaning.
Habitual Mind – when you change the content, it learn to wrap itself around the new content. Until we learn to break this chain of events, all we shall be doing is changing rooms on the Titanic.
Listening and truly hearing the beauty in every person and their beliefs is a wonderful thing that many do not take the time to enjoy. Because usually a person’s religion is central to their actions, speech, and life, there comes a huge sense of desire to share that with the other person.
It is integral to be able for each side to express what they believe (in this case both the Muslim and the Protestant), however many times so called “Christ-followers” instead of sharing they try to force what only God can do and end up pushing the other farther from the Truth.
It is a pathetic example of Christ’s love (and I say this because I have been guilty of this myself), and I must fight my selfish desire to push my beliefs on others. However, I know that I must share the message of Christ’s saving love as a Christ-follower.
There is always a balance of sharing and pushing….and I think that is where many of become selfish and err on pushing.
I pray that God works in each of us to embody Paul’s teaching that our lives be more about God’s grace for all and less about our sinful selves.
So if one does not feel comfortable to enter a place of uncertainty, perhaps we can use our computers, in the comfort of our homes and offices, as a tool to face the unknown, and discuss things that one may not normally feel comfortable discussing face-to-face..
@danica: I felt a deep truth in these words of you. Sharing is indeed that, what is most helpful in our lives. It’s so great, when I choose the way of sharing instead of pushing. Everything changes inside me and sometimes even outside. Truth is nothing to be pushed by us. Truth stands alone for itself. If someone needs to push or empasize what truth may be, it gives a clear signal of uncertainty and unawareness. These people need love not judgement. It’s not easy to love someone, who always pushes you. But if you realize, that there is no need for easyness, than you can do, what you should do: share love.
Dear Klaus-Dieter – love your thoughts! When most people will be easily offended by people who try to push, I enjoy your expression that the difficult thing is the thing that is needed most – to love that person instead of judging.
To do that seems to take a lot of emotional maturity, lack of fear, and peace of mind.
Which again ties in to interesting questions about human nature – why is it so hard to open up to this love vs. closing down to the judgment?
Thanks for your insights on this.
Ive been learning a lot lately about the troubles that come when you dont know and love yourself. And the freedom clarity and understanding that comes when you do. To be able to open freely and allow someone to feel something else you have to be coming from a place of trust in yourself that no matter what anyone else feels or think that you are still a good person, worthy of love, and then as you do that you can love the other person in return.
The instinct to fight and shut down and prove comes from a place of insecurity, that if that person believes differently that that is in some way a rejection of the person you are, and if you dont know who you are independent of others feeling towards you, you will fight like crazy to keep that acceptance.
The major problems then arise when people are too scared to find out who they really are and what their purpose on this earth is. To be aligned with their mission on earth, what ever it may be. I know for me this journey to know myself is hard and slow going because I’m afraid of what I will find when I get there, I”m not even sure I’ll like the person I really am, how can I be certain anyone else will. It’s just the self consciousness that people have been raised with-wondering “what if Im not good enough”. Obviously thats silly because we were all created with divineness, (most religions agree with that) but then human nature mixed with society steps in to create doubt.
I think one reason why you are so understanding of others and their differences is because you are so aligned with what your goal is on earth. You travel the world touching lives, unafraid of what you will receive in return. Few people have that kind of courage.