Our Own Reality- How Many Ribs?

One day I had a conversation with my wife, and in passing I mentioned the different number of ribs between men and women. She asked me what I was talking about, and I said “oh, you know, how men have one less rib than women do.” She smiled and told me that that wasn’t true, and a quick Google search confirmed that she was right.

And to be honest, I don’t remember how that notion ever got into my head to begin with. I assume it was some childhood misunderstanding based on the story of Eve being made from one of Adam’s ribs. The idea took hold, was never challenged (I mean, how often do you really talk out loud about how many ribs people have?), and so I never critically considered whether it was true or not.

It’s an embarrassing story I suppose, but I thought it worth sharing, as I learned an important lesson about human nature from it. It was a firsthand experience of how we intensely desire to hold onto our notion of reality, even when it is clearly flawed.

Because, you see, when my wife corrected me I felt like I would rather die than admit I was wrong. Even when the internet search backed up her claims, I didn’t want to believe the evidence I was seeing. Though it was irrational, I wanted to maintain that my reality was the right one and she and the rest of the world were still wrong. To be clear, I didn’t maintain that stance, but I wanted to.

And I don’t think I’m too unique in that. Many people exhibit that same desire to be right, even when it’s clear they’re not right. I have known people that repeat the same destructive behavior over and over, all while maintaining that things will work out better this time. I have known people that remain in toxic relationships, all while spinning a story about how things really aren’t so bad. I have known people who stay away from loved ones because they aren’t willing to admit that they were the one in the wrong.

So yes, It is actually very common for us to fabricate our own realities, deluded as they are, and hold firmly to them no matter what. Even when we know that they are wrong, it is hard to let them go. Even when we know what the actual truth is, it is easier to keep living the lie.

Respect in Our Differences- Personal Example

I disagree with you, but that’s okay. Is this something that we can respectfully look one another in the eye and say? So often in this world to disagree with another is to hate them. To hold a different opinion is a an irredeemable crime, it makes one a mortal enemy.

Absolutely I feel that we should evangelize for what we believe in, and should try to share what truths we have gained with those that are receptive to them. But some people will not wish to share in them, and the test is whether we can accept that graciously.

Without a doubt, each of us know people who we feel are unequivocally in the wrong. Or at the very least, are more wrong than us! Can we maintain that they are wrong, but also still a worthy person?

I have a friend who is an atheist. We spoke about religion a few times, and I am pleased to say it was always respectful from both sides. Each of us was genuinely curious to just understand one another better without judgment. In the end, my friend still thinks that I am naïve, and I think that he is cynical. We therefore see fundamental flaws in one another. I think that he is wrong, he thinks that I am wrong… And yet we still think that one another is a good friend.

Would it be nice if my friend became a believer? Of course. I honestly feel it would be a source of great joy to him. But for now it is not necessary for him to agree with me, only that he and I do the disagreeing respectfully.

Respect in Our Differences- Question

When one encounters a life-changing good, one wants to share it with others. My desire to write this very blog was a result of a spiritual awakening that began for me a couple of years ago. Advocating for one’s beliefs, though, eventually one will come face-to-face with differing opinions.

Some of those opinions one can reject outright. They are self-defeating ideologies, ones that are based upon logical fallacies. But some of them are very sincere, and held by individuals who have had spiritual awakenings just as profound as your own. In a moment such as this, you must decide whether you are going to respect the similarities, or be repulsed by the differences. In my experience, respect is the far more gratifying path.

This world seems to struggle with that notion, though. Saying that I respect someone that I disagree with, is construed as meaning that I wholeheartedly agree with them. We have lost the ability to have different opinions, and still think the world of one another.

With this study I would like to examine how we can maintain our convictions, while also showing respect to others. I will also consider why it is important to hold to our differences, and not just try to blend every belief system into one. Along the way we will examine how Jesus treated those of different faiths, such as the people of Samaria.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about your own experiences reconciling spiritual differences with friends and family. Have you ever found it a struggle to not get emotionally involved in the differences? What has helped you to be able to focus on the good in everyone? Has it ever challenged you to meet a member of a different faith who adhered to your own commandments better than you do?

Knit Our Hearts- James 3:2 (NIV); Proverbs 9:9, 27:17

We all stumble in many ways.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

COMMENTARY

We all stumble in many ways
Give me a list of moral dilemmas, ethical quandaries, and human behaviors to judge. I will answer each one and I will invariably feel that all of my answers are the right answers, or in other words I will feel that my opinion is the same as God’s. Every man believes that he judges rightly.
But if I ask you to answer this same list of questions, you might answer some the same as me, but you will inevitably answer others of them differently. And for all your answers you will be just as convinced of your own rightness as I am of mine, and this would mean that at least one of us must be wrong, even when we are convinced that we are right.
If we’re being perfectly honest, though, it isn’t just one of us that is wrong. Neither you nor I will be totally right in all of our judgments because we are flawed and imperfect beings. In one of our disagreements I might be the one in error, but in another disagreement it might be you.
Every man believes that he judges rightly, but every man is at least somewhat mistaken.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser
A man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend
Exploring the differences in our beliefs can be a painful exercise, because it is very easy to get one’s pride tangled up in it. If one is not careful, then feelings are hurt and bitterness comes out. However, if both parties are willing to shelve their pride and sincerely seek truth, then something remarkable occurs.
First we can examine our areas of disagreement objectively. By questioning our motives we may discover a bias that blocked our discernment. With time and care we can each improve, or sharpen, the other’s understanding.
There is another benefit as well. Though we may have differences of opinion, we also certainly have agreements. As I suggested yesterday, in those places where our opinions overlap our confidence in having judged rightly greatly increases. There, in our mutual agreement, we begin to see God in our midst.

The Family of God- Colossians 3:13-15, Ephesians 4:3

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

COMMENTARY

Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

From these verses we learn that charity is one of the bonds of unity, and twice we are told that the peace of God also calls us to one body. I wondered why, and after reading what others have written about these verses and mulling it over, I think I have at least a partial answer.
Being at peace does not necessarily mean that people are united, but being in conflict does necessarily mean that they are not. Therefore, peace is a prerequisite to unity because it establishes the climate where unity can be cultivated.
All this being said, I do believe that there is such a thing as “friendly disagreement,” and I don’t think we have to surrender our beliefs as a way to avoid contradicting others’ philosophies. But perhaps we can recognize that for all our differences, we still have more things in common. To be able to do that, to focus on the good in others and not the bad, is to have charity. Thus charity is essential for us to have peace, even with our differences.

And be ye thankful
Charity and peace are pleasant things, and we are meant to feel pleasure when we are in their presence. We can be very thankful in the moments that we enjoy them. But also we should remember that these blessings are given to us for for a reason. Yes, they make us feel soft and nice, but they are also tools, meant to be used to make the world a better place.