By Dane & Kelsey Schuett
There is a big, wide, room. In this room is one issue, of which there are two sides. The left side of the room is white, and the right side of the room is black. Say you start off on the right side of the room, the side that is black. From your vantage point, the other side of the room looks SO different; much brighter, and blinding, to the point where it is difficult for you to see fully who is on that side and what they are doing. As you begin to walk closer to the left side of the room however, things begin to get a little clearer, not nearly as blinding, and you begin to hear snippets of what is being talked about on the other side. Once you’ve gotten to the middle, though the left side and right side have still maintained their respective colors, neither is as big and bright or dark and scary, and the floor you’re standing on is grey.
It’s the grey area.
See what I did there? You knew that was coming though, so let’s just move on. At this point, you can see the people on either side fairly clearly, and can hear what they are saying. The more you move toward one side, the more you move away from the other, and the less you can hear and see.
This middle point where you are standing is a happy and hard place I call “The Tension”.
This lovely little place is a tough one to be in, but I think it is a place we need to be. Almost always, it is easier to stay on one side – it takes less work, and you are surrounded by people who share your preferences and think the same way you do. It is more comfortable to stick to your side. But it is a cheap excuse to not engage with people, and not love them when it gets tough.
Now, I want to say that standing in the tension does not mean agreeing with both sides. There are plenty of issues I have faced where, though I wholeheartedly disagree with the other side, it has still been helpful for me to hear why the other side thinks the way it does, but I can’t do that from far away.
I have to muster up the courage to walk to the center where I can hear and see both sides.
I can’t think of one situation in my life where it has been unhelpful for me to be standing in the Tension. Sure, in many circumstances it’s scary, I’m alone, I’m afraid of what people will think, and it may take a long time for me to get there, but the results are always good. It is honoring for people when we ask questions about their beliefs, when we try and understand their point of view. If everyone took a second and asked a few more questions, disagreement might be a lot more gentle, and a tad bit easier.
Brene Brown, an author and Professor at the University of Houston, talks a lot about this type of living; one that means putting aside our initial response and asking questions, and being vulnerable.
“It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. If we are going to change what is happening in a meaningful way we’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us… …We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness.” (Forbes, 2017)
Though she doesn’t use these words, she is describing what I have been calling the Tension.
We all have places like this in our lives, many of these places we have found a cheap resolution for, some, and don’t know how to respond to. Try and look at one of these things in your life this week. Talk it through with a friend, then talk it through with someone who disagrees with you, but ask questions. Begin there.