Stacy Rector: Finding Common Ground

Finding common ground makes it easier to search and discover: "Just what does my faith say about this?"


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Finding Common Ground

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~ Rumi


Most religions adhere to the belief that human beings are meant to live in community with one another. The abundant religious variations of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means both that we behave towards one another as we desire for ourselves, and that we are to also seek to forgive one another as we would seek to be forgiven.

This is in recognition that, regardless of how we feel about another person, or what may have been done to us, God is constantly calling on us to reconcile to and with one another. Part of the reconciliatory process is finding common ground—intentionally focusing on areas of agreement rather than areas of disagreement.

This does not mean that we ignore or deny differences, or shut out the reality of conflict or harm. Rather, we choose to begin our conversation towards peace and reconciliation by understanding where we share overlapping values and goals, and try to build from and around those. Over time, we discover that there are areas where we undo and displace disagreement and disconnect, which opposition would not have resolved.

Reflections

  1. What if, rather than focusing on ways that we hurt one another, we instead first sought the spaces where we value and love one another, and look to work and expand from there?
  2. We at times do not want to connect with those we view in opposition to us because we worry that this will make us vulnerable to being hurt by them. I John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear.” Consider a situation of opposition that you are experiencing. What does it look like to love like God, and choose to interact with one another from His love rather than our fear, hurt, or anger?

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Finding Common Ground

We are to remember that for God, the point is not that we are right. The point, for as long as we can sustain in a healthy manner, is to be in relationship. This takes practice. Ready?


Action
 

Seeking common ground often means that we have to first begin working to address our personal barriers to listening to and hearing from the others at the table. The following are ways to begin that work:

  1. Find a NonViolent Communication group in your city, or learn about and practice the 4 Chairs Method. Nonviolent communication focuses on centering relationships rather than issues and emotions, with the very hope of helping us to meet one another as human beings and grow forward.

 

  1. Listening—not talking or waiting to respond—is critical to building healthy and strong relationships. Learn and practice 5 ways to be a better listener.

 

  1. Find and join or establish a listening circle community, such as Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust. Listening circles are based off of the practices of some First Nation tribes, whereby each member of the circle, their experiences, and their sharing are recognized as integral to the community. Regardless of the decisions that may be made in listening circles, everyone is valued and everyone is heard. Being in constant practice of a listening circle enables us to listen better and be more empathetic in general life.

 

  1. Basic practice: The next time that you engage in an argument, allow the other person(s) to express their viewpoints first. Then, address and acknowledge the various points of their argument which may have merit. If you find no points of merit, choose simple silence.

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