Good and sensible persons can come to opposite conclusions.
As I sat down to write, I genuinely had a string of thoughts run through my head of all the reasons I should call and say, ‘I am terribly sorry but will not be writing the blog post this week.’ I became conflicted because what reason would I give as to why? If I were to be honest, my answer would be, “It’s too hard.” Then, the words of my Middle School teacher, Shari Ausley, speaking to a seventh-grade me, came into my head, “You can do hard things.”
I tentatively cracked open a book I hadn’t touched in years: Ourselves by Charlotte Mason. Opening to a page I had initially read as that same seventh grader, my eyes were drawn to the quote:
“Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.”
If someone’s opinion had not been changed, then, someone else had clearly lacked appropriate effort, was my thought! As far back as seventh grade, I have felt the need to express my opinions without hesitation or sensitivity. My Ambleside teacher wrote in a Report of Growth, “At times, Kelli speaks her opinions abruptly, not thinking how another might feel.”
The quotation from Charlotte Mason made me consider a situation I had recently experienced. In recent days, with so many issues dividing people, I have felt the need to convince others why my position is right and theirs is wrong. I am recognizing my own judgemental spirit, a tendency to think less of, and the temptation to convey a distaste of another’s differing opinion in a harsh manner. This was the case with one of my dearest friends. We found ourselves on opposite sides of a few recent issues. I allowed conversations to diminish my respect for not only her opinions but ultimately her as a person. I struggled to view her through anything but the lens of her opposing opinions, and this took a legitimate toll on our friendship. As it should, the broken relationship bothered me, yet I wasn’t bothered by my attitude of still being right, above, and superior: the true heart of my problem.
That is, until I read further in the passage from Ourselves, “You will find it possible that the Reason of equally good and equally intelligent people will bring them to quite opposite conclusions.”
What? A humbling revelation to consider!
“That is the cause of all the controversy in the world. People think that they can convince each other by the arguments which their own reason has accepted…We must remember that Reason is each man’s own particular servant, and plays on his side, as it were, and convinces him of that which he is inclined to believe.”
Charlotte Mason reminds modern-day us that reason is not infallible, regardless of good intent and/or intelligence. Yes, humbling once more! When coupled with 1 Corinthians 13:1 which says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” I become keenly aware of what’s most important. Love cannot flow through us and flourish in the spaces that ‘look down on people’ or spaces ‘stuck in rightness.’
I am thankful that Ambleside students are learning to hone their reason skills by engaging heroes and villains, in fact and fiction. We engage in discussions that ask, ‘How do you think he arrived at that conclusion?’, ‘What idea do you think led him/her astray?’ or ‘How are we like them?’ But I am even more thankful that at Ambleside, we are learning to love, and learning how to love well. And to love, we must be humble and willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and to love well we must display understanding and empathy in this regard.
When I remember that people are more important than the problem, I open myself up to connections that are selfless, respectful, and intentional. These are the connections which grow maturity, influence fellowship, and foster joy. These are the relationships that are worth not being “right.”