On the way to work today, a talk show host inserted tongue firmly in cheek and said, “It is hard being the only one right.” It made me think of the situation at the University of Missouri and the ripple effect it will have on Columbia, Missouri, and maybe even the nation at large.
At least a handful of times in this saga, I, a person who is not on campus and who is white, have just wished the lid of my head could open up and reveal the dazzling thoughts of my mind—who was right and who was wrong, what they’d missed, how to fix things. I, and I alone, held the jangling keys to the door of healing, and I toted them along slowed only by my weighty wisdom.
Whether you admit it or not, similar thoughts have probably darkened the door of your mind as well. We all want to pontificate at the water cooler or teach our disciples on social media. And we do so knowing all the answers and having our own pet articles to support our lofty viewpoints.
But I’ve come to realize one very important thing about this whole to-do, and this one thing has allowed me to get much nearer the truth than my former way of thinking has. The important thing I’ve come to realize is this: I don’t know.
I really don’t. Sure, I have broad opinions. I think racism exists (here and everywhere in multitude ways). I don’t think its existence everywhere gives it a pass anywhere. I think it certainly lives in me, and I know I’m riddled with biases on everything in life. But I also know that fighting injustice is extremely important, and that how we fight injustice matters greatly—for history has taught that one corrupt regime often falls to the next corrupt regime: they differ in their expression of corruption but become alike in their misuse of power and self-serving principles. I know the why’s matter, and so do the how’s. But mostly, I just don’t know.
The power of not knowing is twofold. First, it increases a hunger for knowing. And second, that hunger for knowing leads to a thing so oft forgotten when the stakes are raised in a situation (any situation): listening. When emotions rise, wisdom lowers, and much of this is due to a lack of listening involved. Think of the last big argument you had with your spouse or parent. There is a decent chance you don’t even remember what it started with because it devolved into a willful competition about being right. When that becomes our mindset, truth gets lost in the shuffle. And what I’m finding in this current situation is that from both sides and from those in the middle, truth is being abandoned for winning an argument, yelling the loudest, flexing the most.
I’ve seen this in myself when I hunt for articles that agree with my perspective and dismiss or defame those that don’t. I feel it when every bit of information is viewed not as a thing to be dwelled on and thought through, but rather something to confirm the beliefs I already have a stranglehold on. My conversations are not give-and-take, but give-and-think-of-what-to-say next in order to prove my unsoiled point. And this chokes progress; it hides truth.
I could go on. In fact, I plan to at some point. But for now, as I hunt for truth, it is a time of listening, of learning, and of taking every thought captive to Christ. In this way I am not bound by my opinions, but free to see the world and its issues as Christ did, and thereby free to love my neighbor as myself in this situation.