Sunday, February 8, 2009

“I don’t have a view” on that Issue

Let’s say you’re innocently doing your grocery shopping and minding your own business and as you move into aisle 18 to survey the dog food you’re suddenly accosted by your overzealous neighbour of four years. You begin chatting and before long the subjects of foreign policy pertaining to the war in Iraq, or daylight saving, or policy for Federal government spending of our present little surplus via a “$42 Billion Rudd bonus,” come into the equation.

No doubt these are all interesting subjects, and needless to say, we could consume days discussing each. But my problem is what difference will the discussion make? Moreover, what corner am I painting myself into when I take my one-sided view?

One of the worst facts of life is we have this incredible habit of having erroneous views on everything. The fact is any one-sided view is bound to be wrong as there are always two (or more) sides to any one issue. We take a side though; an extreme. We polarise. We get passionate... about issues of politics and religion and other personally very insignificant issues i.e. that most of us have little or no control over.

Why don’t we instead get passionate about world hunger and actually do something about it like sponsor a child or donate money or volunteer? That would be more worthwhile.

People expect us to have a point of view on everything. And not only does it make for tedious conversation that is meaningless--and full of untruths--it is the very tactic many carnal people use to stifle real progress. It’s based firmly in the Hellish realm and it’s not the stuff that spiritual people ought to be overly concerning themselves with.

This subject of which I talk about is the equivalent to gossip. Gossip is malignant cancer for relationships; this matter of having a view on everything is metastatic to the gentle and right organisation of our minds. It is at best neutral in effect; at worst, counter-productive.

Stephen Covey talks about the ‘circle of influence’ and the ‘circle of concern.’[1] Our circle of influence is that which we have control over--our familial relationships, our jobs, our daily activities. In these we have firm responsibilities. Our circle of concern on the other hand is that area of things we might be passionate about but have no control over. We waste endless energy, time and words discussing world debt, justice in the courts, and issues of foreign policy.

If we have a concern, rather than bashing our gums we should be prepared to do something about it, or remain relatively quiet and not have a polarised view one way or the other, leaving our energies for the good things we can do, especially those things we need to do.

The biggest pity of all is when we concern ourselves with issues that don’t concern us to the detriment of issues that do--Bill Hybels calls this ‘selective sluggardliness.’[2] We excel in certain areas of life but we fail to make the effort required in others, and we miss the mark of life in those areas. In other words, could we be somewhat wasting our time in the circle of concern and leaving issues in our circle of influence in abeyance? I’m sure every single one of us could do better here--and therefore we must strive to actually do it.

I would like to think that I (and you if you so desired) could say more often in the future, “I don’t have a view on that issue,” or, “I’m not entirely sure and wouldn’t like to comment,” where matters outside of our influence are discussed. We could then reserve our limited energy for those things that do matter, which we can affect, and we would also not become trapped in the dominion of the non-truth of opinion.

Most of all, this disciplining of our minds through what we speak would mean we could save our speech for lifting others up... as Paul says through Eugene Peterson,

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.” –Ephesians 5:3 (Msg).

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1989), p. 81f. Covey discusses in his book how to shift and expand our circles of influence, effectively influencing some of those things we’re concerned about.
[2] Bill Hybels, Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action (Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 36-8.

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