Wisdom and the Fray

As often the case, today’s Thursday Thoughts come out of my journaling.

Aging and growing in my faith have caused me to see wisdom much differently. I have learned that wisdom is most often shown by not entering a fray early. That is unless I feel there is something I can offer that no one else can offer at the outset. But this is very rare! Most of the time, I sense the Lord saying, “wait, let others express themselves and watch what happens. See what I can do without you!”

Earlier in my life, I felt it was my responsibility to straighten out every faulty point or thinking. This is the tendency Dave Bangle pointed out after our first board meeting at Pawnee; he called me a bulldog who shakes the air out of every toy. Now I know that a great deal of a person’s sense of contribution hinges on sharing their perspective and having it heard.  

For most people, everyone doesn’t have to agree with it. However, leaders sense the need to contribute, so they feel the need to talk. When they do, it is like they have exhaled a deep breath; there is a great sense of relief. Just as exhaling breath allows us to take in a fresh breath of air, once people have shared something and feel like it has been heard, they are more open to hearing what others have to say. Or, as my metaphor allows, for them to take in a fresh breath of air.

So now, I allow the discussion to go much longer without me. I eventually do enter in and express my perspective, but not necessarily addressing point by point made by others with which I may agree or disagree. Surely, I am not afraid to address a point made by another if asked. But most of the time, people really don’t care what I think about specific points in their argument if they feel heard.

I think my wisdom is much more respected today than it was thirty years ago. Yes, this is partially because of my age, experience, reading, and knowledge gained through these. However, some of it is surely my hesitation to enter the fray early and let others feel free to express their own perspectives and be heard before I engage from my own perspective.

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