Understanding and Cooperation vs Rejection and Conflict
People are born different from one another. If you have several children, the odds are you recognize how very different we are when we arrive. It’s human to think our own “difference” is best. That’s part of being different, we understand and value our strength more than those that seem the opposite. The reality is that for every strength there is a corresponding weakness. To survive most of us develop minimal skills in our weaker areas. It isn’t easy and if we can, we’ll avoid things that require us to use those skills. Now, at eighty-five, I’ve realized that we are challenged sometime around the fourth quarter of our lives to develop in our weakest area. That requires a temporary loss of our greatest strength and most cherished ways of being, thinking, praying, and relating. It’s so scary that we may dig in and resist this part of the process of becoming whole. It’s a dying to self and it’s part of our spiritual journey.
If you have become aware of the growth and changes in the journey of Jesus, it helps to know that even he went through the challenges of changing his understanding of his mission and even’s God’s love. And he too struggled with it. The times of his journey were compacted, but once you look for it, it’s plain to see and a powerful challenge for us.
Many of Scripture’s dominant characters, even brothers, were obviously different and some let that difference become the root of division and evil.
One of the biggest gaps in understanding, empathy, and appreciation for those different is between theory and possibility people and the world they see and know people. That’s a major challenge in a democracy.
Another gap is between those that respond to life out of logic and those that respond from feeling values. Which is often a classic challenge in marriage.
The theory/logic people have a lot to offer, but their combination tends to exhibit a sense of superiority. A political example was Adlai Stevenson who lost in his run for president. A classic comment about him was, “He looks at people like they are side dishes he didn’t order.”
The theory people live with their noses in books of history and science and often see new ways of understanding them and making improvements. The practical people can take those theories and make them happen. It should be a perfect pairing of gifts differing.
Except it’s like the tower of Babel, because they don’t speak the same language.
Theoretical thinkers never use a one syllable word when they know a five-syllable word for the same thing. To the practical people they may as well be speaking a foreign language. This intimidates instead of communicating. It makes the “let’s just do it” people feel stupid and they shut down and turn off.
The reality is that EVERYONE is ignorant in a million more areas than they are knowledgeable. Ignorance is not stupidity. And book knowledge will never become reality without the people who can make it happen. If we work at it, we can communicate across our different areas of knowledge.
My Architect husband was very visual and practical. He wasn’t a wordsmith or a theory person. He created many very good-looking practical buildings. He spent time in offices asking the workers what would make their work easier and more efficient, in warehouses studying assembly lines, working with different denominations to design churches to suit their worship style. He cared about getting the most legal parking spaces on the lots. He battled to get small Mennonite Schools without electricity safe enough to meet fire codes. He came home from Architectural Symposiums frustrated over the new buzz words. When he wanted to get results from the American Institute of Architecture office, he got me to write the letters because I could speak their language. The “elite” Architects tend to design works of art and speak the jargon that goes with it.
In Architecture, the blueprint communicates the details of the concept to the builder, carpenter, electrician, etc. But when my husband wanted me to appreciate the details of his blueprints, I got headaches. So, I took a class in Blueprint Reading at the local vocational school. I made the best grades in class and did learn to interpret blueprints, but I couldn’t have made the leap to the actual site work. I’m a theory person who lives in my head and barely notices things around me.
When I began to study and then work with the MBTI, my husband appeared to be patiently listening to my long and enthusiastic monologues on personality types. But after several years, when we were asked to give presentations on type together, it turned out that he had been counting ceiling tiles, windows, and square feet while nodding thoughtfully during my expounding.
But, when we were challenged to get it together, we slogged our way through psychological jargon and their realities until he could express our differences with concrete examples. Since his personality type is much more predominant than mine, he was able to communicate effectively with many more people than I was.
Since he and I were the exact opposite to the extreme in every area that the MBTI measures, we made a good laboratory for understanding across the differences. But it wasn’t easy. I think our five children who are very different from one another profited from our differences, but it took understanding the differences for us to recognize that the way we each expressed love was different, so we often weren’t getting the messages.
My degree is in Psychology and I’ve accumulated enough credits in Pastoral Theology to qualify for a job that required a masters in that. My interest from the combination has been on how differences in inborn personality traits effect marriages, teaching and learning style combinations, spirituality, and business management.
Now at eighty-five, I’ve begun to focus on the many ways personality (not intelligence) creates misunderstanding and alienation in politics. I’ve recognized how important it is now that we begin to see our differences as gifts that could be working together, not dividing us.
This topic has become my theme song. The more I consider it, the more important it seems to be for our times.