I’m thinking we have all done it. We’ve all heard one side of a story and began to form strong opinions about the WHOLE story.
Maybe it was when a friend at work told you about how their ex was pretty much the worst person on earth…
Or when you spent a lot of time listening to your articulate uncle talk about why his political view on X or Y issue was clearly the right one…
Or when you were watching 20/20 and by half way though the show were totally convinced that that guy drugged and kidnapped his girlfriend…
All these opinions felt obvious in their trueness until you heard the other side of the story.
Like maybe the girl’s friends tell you what a jerk she was to her ex,
Or you heard some compelling arguments against your uncle’s political opinion,
Or you watched the 2nd half of 20/20, in which case you had your opinions completely turned on their head…
THEN things look a little less clear, and you back pedal in your mental certainty. Suddenly there are 2 sides of the story to be contended with… and everything isn’t always so black and white.
We have ALL done it, I’m pretty sure.
I know that personally, some of the ways I have done this were more subtle and ingrained. I grew up with opinions naturally instilled in me through family, church, school, friends, and my generally conservative Evangelical subculture. Growing up with opinions instilled in you, whatever your environment, is basically inevitable. I completely assumed that my opinions about politics and religion were just right. Obviously the Republicans were right, clearly women shouldn’t be pastors, and evolution is definitely a bunch of anti-God BS meant to undermine and destroy Christian values.
And then I started hearing other angles.
The first BIG thing that happened was when I was a 17 year old at YWAM (Youth With A Mission- where I did missions trips). There was a new book at the book table- a book called ‘Why Not Women’. I bought it, thinking it was going to give a solid biblical case for why women shouldn’t be in church leadership… I thought this because I honestly thought this is what all ‘Bible Believing Christians’ believed. I assumed that churches that had women in leadership had no regard for the Bible or truth. Since I knew YWAM as a Bible believing organization, I assumed the book would have the right (my) conclusions.
By the 2nd chapter of this book my world was being rocked. “OH MY GOSH… They are saying WOMEN CAN BE PASTORS.” This was earth-shaking on two levels-
1- that any ‘real’ Christians believed this was ok, and
2- because they were actually making a compelling case… largely based on the Bible itself.
I devoured that book in a very short amount of time. Within 3 years or so I had effectively changed my opinion about women in Church leadership- enough to be part of a church plant with a woman elder. This was the beginning for me. It was the dawn of the realization that just because I’ve always had the opinion that something is true, that that doesn’t mean it is. I began to believe that if I have a strong opinion about some theological (or political or social) issue, and yet have only honestly looked at the story from one side, then I better be willing to HONESTLY listen to the other side of the story before proceeding.
I’ve also come to realize that knowing someone else has looked at both sides of the coin helps me genuinely respect their point of view even when they differ with me. It is much much harder to value people’s opinions when it appears they never allow themselves to honestly examine both sides of the story. I mean, you can and should always value the PEOPLE, but their opinions are harder to take as seriously if they haven’t been genuinely examined. Maybe that sounds nasty or offensive, but it is my honest experience.
Now this doesn’t mean I (or anyone) should feel the need to intensely study all sides of every issue under the sun. I mean, ain’t nobody got time for that. BUT, if I’m going to “take a stand” on some issue, if I am going to try and convince others, and if I consider it important and am going to base decisions on it, then I want to be the kind of person who is willing to pause and honestly examine both sides of the coin.