One of our favorite, and honest, phrases parenting our girls was, “There are two sides to every story.” Occasionally this was construed as either, ‘You don’t believe me,” or, “How come you won’t assume my position.” These interactions came during conversational moments where in relationship with our girls we were attempting to learn together in a way a particular event could be a moment of growth and maturity, even for we parents.
Frustration generally curbed or slowed all of our learning. We so wanted to be understoodÂ that our only gauge for understanding was for theÂ “other” to “come over toÂ our side.” Our girls would on occasion feel as though their parents did not listen and we reciprocated with the same feelings.
This kind of impasse is often experienced in any number of relationships. What we must be careful of is asserting the “other” is immovable and thereby exhibits a flawed character. It could be the “other” listened but for a variety of reasons did not assume a posture of holding on to his or her position out of pride and belligerence.Â It may well have been the “other” found merit in the “argument” presented and may have even moderated some elements of a position but nonetheless found confidence in the decision made.
Attempts to couch this experience in terms of antagonists limits what we may learn. In other words, it is easy to make ensuing conversations and descriptions part of an “us/them” framework. Doing so runs the risk of exhibiting both a lack of humility and an attempt to control and direct the “other.”
Pastoring often brings such a criticism when it is perceived a person is not “heard.” Listening in this context means the one casting anÂ accusation is more interested in “getting their way” than working toward understanding that may even result in disagreement but not the dissolution of the relationship.
Over this past several months I listened and learned from a group of students. Our conversations centered on leadership beyond power. The ways in which we exhibit power over the “other” often leads to a decline in powerful leadership after the manner of Jesus as each person is interested in “getting their way.” The subplot of the course found expression in the title, “Beyond Power: Leadership and Gender in a Flattened World.”
Students with differing views and perspectives made for anÂ interesting, even intense, first couple of days. Over the course of the semester learning from “others” took precedence over positions. This does not mean some fell pray to the proverbial slippery slope of giving up ground only to be come …. you fill in the blank. Instead, what ensued was a final two days together that exhibited just how those who differ can learn and love one another to a place of powerful learning – relational learning.
Creating an atmosphere where this may occur in allÂ relationships may result not in a particular hegemonic position, but a plurality that allows us to see in ways we otherwise would not. Our own confidences are refined as we embrace the “other.” Since we cannot “fully know” the position of learning from the “other” seems to be a better place from which to move forward in following Jesus and working with others to live what my friend John refers to as, “reconciled lives with God and with others.”