A Call for Restraint in the Age of the Opinion (Guest Blog)

The following blog comes from a client-friend who finds listening lost in the world of unconstrained opinions. This has been helpful to me.

 

Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.[1]

I admit it; these days I’m as prone to get my news from my Facebook feed as I am from the New York Times. My hope is that trusted friends of mine will post legitimate links, and as I survey the field of opinions I may be able to wade through the myriad of information to arrive at some sense of an informed outlook.

Although social media is a helpful tool in this regard, I also cringe at the way many of us use and abuse our posting privileges. We are navigating new ground in this information age and many of us are making gut-wrenching mistakes along the way.

It seems to me that we need to recover the art of being slow to speak (or in this case post) about complex issues. Reading a few blog posts does not entitle us to expert-level truth claims. Though we are entitled to our opinions, too many of us project our minimally informed opinions as fact, unwilling to accept or engage with those who have researched the subject thoroughly.

What I fear is that, for all of our newfound ability to share information, we are losing the ability to communicate with one another. We don’t allow each other the space to sit with complexity, or the respect to disagree without breaking connection. With our quick-fire opinion bombs, we blow up our relationships for the sake of our truth. We unfriend our opponents, never having really taken the time to consider their perspective.

We amateurs ought to watch our words more carefully and hold our perspectives a bit more loosely. We do not know the extent of the harm our words may cause, or the relational cost we may incur in our unbending expression of personal opinion. Perhaps, in some cases, it is better to hold our tongue and keep our friends for the time being.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t speak up about injustice, or that we shouldn’t stand for equality or other important issues. What I am saying is that we need to acknowledge our own limited perspective and grant others leeway to do the same.

This age, with all its technological wonders, offers unprecedented opportunity to dialogue and inform one another. May we be those who foster grace and humility, rather than antagonism. In other words, may we be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry;” (James 1:19, NIV). Amen.

[1] This quote has been variously attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and Maurice Switzer. It’s more positively stated alternative is found in Proverbs 17:28: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (NIV).

Is Depression Treatable with a Mobile Phone App?

Now this is interesting to me. Can you do therapy without a therapist? Will I be out of work soon? (Smile.)

Thousands of new mobile phone apps have popped up to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Though many claim to employ clinically sound methods, critics say that human interaction is key to mental health care.

Is it safe or effective to use apps to treat anxiety or depression? What do you think?

“ACTing”: A Model for Community Change

I don’t write much about my consultation work on these pages, but I think that “ACTing” is relevant for all of us that are going through some transition. E.G., I am of the age to begin retiring and I have just left the graduate school where I taught for 7 years.

This is a simple paradigm I use in my work with business leaders, community workers and church leaders. I think it for my own changes as well.

A stands for adjustment. The lowest level of change is to tweak what is not going well and hope that this is sufficient. Organizations might create a new logo, or a college might write a document intended to educate about sexual harassment. Even the most modest adjustments are potentially harmful; they lead leaders into the illusion that they and their organizations have changed. Adjustments don’t make change – they stop change.

C stands for change. Every system has a culture that resists change. We love the misbelief that we got it right the first time. Changes in organization are costly, impactful, hopeful and troubling. In changes we discard what does not work and design what does. We might change leadership in an organization; for example change is to design a work-from-home policy for the purpose of valuing parenting and child care costs or the time wasted in commuting.

T stands for transformation. The location of macro change is when we fresh-think purpose, mission and “way in the world.” A church I was consulting with decided to move from a central structure (e.g. Sunday morning at 11 am) to a simpler model where the people were disbursed into multiple “simple churches” of 20-30 people that met at various times of the week in various homes, coffee shops and other public facilities. This transformational change produced radical results and most of them positive.

Here are some ACTing questions for you.

  1. In the changes you are making in your life, are you adjusting, changing or transforming? Think of your partnerships at work, your marriage, how you interact in your neighbourhood.
  2. Most people are intentionally working their bodies. They may hope to gain muscle mass (not me) or lose weight (that’s more like me), or develop new hobbies like mountain biking, etc. How are you approaching your changes?
  3. Imagine a conflict you have that has been eating you up for a while. What changes are you making? How is it working out?

ACTing is a made-up verb. You change when you are in the verb tense.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

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