There is a quote I may have shared before that hangs on my wall and reads: “We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don’t.” (Frank A Clark.)
From the time I first read it until recently I interpreted it one way. I felt that I could learn so much from the ideas of other people even if I didn’t agree with them. I believed that Mr. Clark was saying that our own perspectives are broadened as we encounter people whose beliefs are different from our own. Perhaps as the result of hearing and understanding new opinions our own opinions are changed or modified. But even if our own opinions are not altered and we stand fast in our convictions, we are enriched by the exchange. This was the growth I assumed he spoke of.
The book I mentioned, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, supported this interpretation of the quote. It caused me to realized that the lens through which we view the world is so narrow and fogged by our own ideas, culture, beliefs and education that we don’t even know what we aren’t seeing. I really can’t articulate the ways in which Anne Fadimen brought to my attention my own clouds of bias, assumption, and stereotypes. Although I still fundamentally disagree with some of the principles of Hmong culture and the practices of the healthcare workers in the story, I have grown from reading about them.
Then a couple months ago I discovered a new meaning to the quote aforementioned. I realized that some people’s opinions have little or nothing to offer my intellect. Some people make foolish choices that my efforts to understand offer no reward. For example, I observe the selfish choice of someone in my life and become filled with anger. The growth I am going to gain from this individual would not come from hearing their justification for their choice.
The growth that comes from disagreement in this circumstance is the growth that comes when I love someone in spite of their choices and allow my heart to be filled with charity rather than allowing my thoughts to be consumed with anger. This growth has nothing to do with being open-minded or tolerant, but everything to do with being more like Jesus Christ.
The ideas of self-deception from the Arbinger Institute that I mentioned before have helped me with this growth. The idea of treating people as humans and exhibiting charity and compassion unconditionally is most difficult with those who I don’t agree with and therefore gives me the most opportunity for cultivation of character.
Even though Father’s Day was a little while ago I want to thank my dad for his wisdom in sharing insightful quotes with me. He has a gift for discerning truth and he searches out the sage counsel of thinkers of all varieties.