Monday, 1 February 2010
I remember once seeing a course called 'Assertiveness Training' on offer at work and thinking, I need the opposite of that. My weaknesses have never revolved around boldness and letting people know what I think, but in having tact and knowing how to be gracious in disagreement.
Sure, it's easy to offer grace and compassion to someone who's down and out or who I pity. Where I stumble is when I feel patronised or when the other person seems just a bit too smug. That's when my defenses go way up, and almost in a daze, I feel the need to put that person in their place.
I hate to admit it, but there's something in me that thrives (in an unhelpful way) on being right and getting the last word. I tell myself that the harnessing of this fire is what makes me a good activist. But there are also times when this same fire isn't always appropriate to unleash.
Recently, I've been getting to know someone I'll call Sharon. She's a lovely gal and I really like her. But as we've gone past shallow introductions, I've started to realise that she actually has some strong political views very contrary to my own on issues I care deeply about. As she started going off the other day, in her lovely way, about immigration (one of my pet issues), inside I was whirling. I was thinking indignantly, 'You've got to be kidding me!'. But, for some reason I felt that instead of telling her how wrong she was I should practice graciousness.
As Sharon continued to tell me her views, instead of thinking of my sparkling rebuttal, I was thinking how often, people don't really want a fair debate, they just want to be heard. Often, people's views betray their fears and experiences.
I don't want to tune out people like Sharon, who I (even vehemently) disagree with, I still want to engage. But instead of being right, I want to practise listening and finding common ground. Practise giving her motives the benefit of the doubt. Practice choosing my battles and my words.
I'm in a season where I feel like I'm swimming in grace, so I want to practice spreading that graciousness about, though I freely admit it's hard and doesn't come naturally. But when I think about it, when I'm old and look back, I'd rather have cultivated a reputation for offering grace than being smart, witty and articulate any day.
Is it just me that graciousness doesn't always come naturally to? How do you balance speaking your mind with offering people grace?
Posted by alisha at 19:57