e don’t know what we don’t know. We’ve all got blind spots. And we don’t know where they are. Isn’t it odd that although the nose is so close to the mouth we aren’t usually aware of what our breath smells like unless someone lets us know?!
I moved to the USA three years ago and since then I’ve heard, on almost (365 x 3) occasions the words, “I like your accent!” It’s a daily affirmation to which I often respond, “I like yours.”
The funny thing is, in Northern California where I live, most people didn’t realise they had an accent until that moment.
We all think with an accent.
In 2 Samuel 12 when Nathan confronts David about Bathsheba he uses the device of a story. He knew that head-on confrontation would result in debate, denial or most likely, death. The story, however, went straight to the heart - as stories often do. In the words of Hamlet, 'The play's the thing. Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king’. Stories (and/or plays) do this, they bypass the mental blocks we put in the way of our blindspots. Not only are we unaware of our blindspots but we so often unwittingly defend them. To change our minds requires courage, humility and effort and it’s not something most people wake up wanting to do. The comfort of our familiar paradigms is something we defend, almost always at our loss.
But isn’t the call upon Christian educators higher than this? We live as ones who repent, who change our minds, ones who are willing to turn away from old ways of thinking, to the renewing of our minds, to throwing off everything that hinders, to walking in humility with our God. Even from a purely pragmatic point of view, isn’t an unwillingness to change our paradigms nothing short of foolish? As Edward De Bono famously said, "If you never change your mind, why have one?”
Although we aren’t privy to David’s internal dialogue, we know he didn’t listen to the feedback that came his way. When he first asked about Bathsheba, a servant replied “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Sam. 11:3). In other words, she’s married. He was told by Uriah, “my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house….” (2 Sam. 11:11). This is feedback to David if he’s willing to listen. But he was unaware of the proud narrative that had taken root inside him. Perhaps he still thought of himself as the giant slayer, the man after God’s own heart, the king to whom God had given it all. Maybe this blinded him into thinking he could take it all, even another man’s wife. Nathan’s story, however, catches his conscience, it illuminates the hidden lie, the blindness he had allowed to grow, the stronghold in which he had put his trust. And his response is beautiful;
“…Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me…” (Psalm 51:10).
So how do we know when we are blinded? How do we find our blindspots? Do we mark a day in the diary - it’s blindspot Tuesday?! Do we stay up late reading Encyclopaedia Britannica? Or perhaps we could listen to one another? Truly listen?
Have you ever been to a party and met someone you really got along with? They were so fun and reminded you of someone you really liked… you?! But community isn’t made up of people that think or look just like us, nor should it. Communities are places where you can’t get away from the person you don’t agree with. They are diverse places and we take our place in those communities with the ability to connect with people who are different. Different ethnically, culturally, generationally, ideologically…the list goes on!
Difference can be scary to those whose goal is agreement. But agreement is an insufficient goal and no community can thrive under it. Connection is the goal. Connection requires that we listen, that we seek to understand, and hear one another’s stories. But listening isn’t passive, it’s one of the most active things we can do.
In such polarizing times, may we be ones who listen, ones who remember that people are still people, no matter the political, racial, cultural background. Every person in front of us is loved by God and our mandate is to do the same. And if we’ve given ourselves permission to have an enemy, Jesus has the perfect antidote. Love them. And a great place to start loving is to listen.
We don’t know what we don’t know, but if we listen we stand a better chance of finding out.