April 18, 2024

On Sunday, as part of our sermon series called Resurrection People, we explored the true meaning of the word “repent.” I told you all that the Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia and it literally means “to change one’s mind.”

Have you ever changed your mind about something? If so, what led to the change? And what do you do when your values deeply clash with the values of someone you love?

A couple of years ago, Arthur Brooks (author of Love Your Enemies) wrote a column in The Atlantic called “A Gentler, Better Way to Change Minds.” He argues that we often make assumptions about other people and their presumed values, which leads us to stereotype them within our minds. When we encounter somebody who holds a vastly different worldview than our own, we often feel threatened. Brooks says, “When people fail to live up to your moral values (or your expression of them), it is easy to conclude that they are immoral people. Further, if you are deeply attached to your values, this difference can feel like a threat to your identity, leading you to lash out, which won’t convince anyone who disagrees with you.”

Instead of wielding your values as a weapon, Brooks argues that instead we should see our values as a gift. “A weapon is an ugly thing, designed to frighten and coerce. A gift is something we believe to be good for the recipient, who, we hope, may accept it voluntarily, and do so with gratitude. That requires that we present it with love, not insults and hatred,” says Brooks.

He then offers three steps we can take in order to view our values as a gift to others:

  1. Do not “other” others.
    Do not allow your differences in values to create an “us” versus “them” culture. Instead, practice radical hospitality even with those with whom you may disagree.
  2. Do not take rejection personally.
    Brooks says, “Because we all establish our identities, in part, around our values, when someone dismisses your beliefs, that can feel like they’re dismissing you. But just as you are not your car or your house, you are not your beliefs. Unless someone says, ‘I hate you because of your views,’ a repudiation is personal only if you make it so.”
  3. Listen more.
    Let this sink in: According to neuroscientific research, in the process of changing a mind, listening is more important than talking. That’s why there is such ancient wisdom found in scripture around the importance of listening to others: You must understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

And the truth is, you may never change the mind of someone you love with whom you disagree. But if we extend welcome to them, if we refuse to take our differences personally, and if we decide to listen more, our relationship will strengthen even in the midst of our disagreement. And, you may not change a mind, but two lives can be changed for the better.

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