Working through Differences

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the World Conference of the RC Communities, August 2017

What I want to talk about tonight, and get us working on, is how we create the conditions in which everyone is safe and free to show their own thinking on issues about which we’re not in agreement. How do we stay together under those conditions? What’s the work we have to do to get in shape [condition] to do that?

We’re doing this work in RC because we know the value and importance of human minds. We’re trying to create the conditions in which everyone’s mind is free to think its own thoughts, and every person is free to be themselves.

It’s not going to start that way. The RC Community is a place where we get to learn to do things. The safety we have built allows us to try things we are scared about and never had the opportunity to do.

Usually when we run into [encounter] opinions that are very different from ours, we don’t like the person who has them. We quickly identify that person with their position. And very seldom do issues resolve on that basis.

Tomorrow we get to try to think about an issue that we struggle with. We’ve all been hurt in the area. Few of us have had the counseling resource to work on the related distresses. And we’re going to go there anyway. We’re going to try to show our minds and our thinking in that area. It’s likely to be messy, and we get to figure out how to handle that.

The basic idea, I think, is that we have to care about each other in spite of our differences. We can’t let our fears about someone’s irrationality confuse us about the person. And of course there’s the possibility that it’s our irrationality too.

There has to be a commitment to each other that’s more important than the disagreement. We’re going to need this in the outside world. As I mentioned before, I don’t think anything is going to move the world forward without a broad, united front. A large number of people may be needed to interrupt certain patterns in our societies. We’ll have to be able to join together with people we have big disagreements with. Sometimes we will need to move quickly and won’t have time to resolve all issues. 

The only way we can trust each other in the places where we’re in deep disagreement is if we are committed to each other, so that we know we will eventually resolve the disagreement. So tonight I want us to have a longer mini-session on what drives us out of our mind [makes us wildly upset]. What can’t we bear to listen to again?

We’ve all listened to a lot of people who have believed their distresses. We have to remember that this began in our childhoods. We were forced to listen to a lot of irrationality—if not in our family, then in the neighborhood, or on the playground, or in school. If we don’t do the work to get a little perspective there, we will have big struggles. So where are you vulnerable? Where in the discussion will you blow up [get extremely angry] and start glaring at somebody and thinking “idiot.” (laughter)

When somebody has a very different position, what should we think? The first question is, “Why do we have different opinions?” If they’re stuck, what distress are they stuck in? We try to figure this out about everyone else around us. We have to do it here, too. Why do our minds not find a joint position easily? What is upsetting us? How can we say our position in a way that can be heard by that particular person? It’s a very individual thing, communication. We have to get good at thinking about our communication that precisely.

We also have to want to be able to agree more than we want the other person to agree with us. We’re trying to find positions that are rational, and they may not come from our mind.

Clear enough? All right, this is our warm-up for tomorrow. Find someone and explore these issues.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 190, January 2018)

Last modified: 2018-01-13 03:03:00+00