I’ve always been kind of a “gray” person. That doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinions or beliefs. It simply means that I’m not a “my way or the highway” kind of girl. I realize there are multiple sides to every story. There are very few hills I’m willing to die on.
After all, I have so much to live for.
What I’d like to propose is an article conversation. And because I must give credit where credit is due — and so as not to be accused of plagiarism or intellectual property theft (right, Shmee?) — I will tell you that my wise husband gave birth to this particular semantic set.
The article conversation is simple. It is “a/an” versus “the.”
This is “a” way versus “the” way.
This is “an” answer versus “the” answer.
This is “a” solution versus “the” solution.
The difference is vast, isn’t it? And it plays out everywhere. In our churches, in our homes, in our schools, in our neighborhoods. In every conversation we engage in, we get to choose our articles.
I choose the kinder, gentler version.
After all, aren’t we all here to be the best we can be? To do the best with what we have? I grow weary of “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
That’s just a story. And we all have those.
Maybe instead of an “I’m right and you’re wrong” conversation, we should consider that “I’m right and you’re right.” Those conversations are the toughest ones to reconcile, aren’t they?
While at the polls on Tuesday, I listened to a man behind me complain about the inefficiencies of the operation. He had ALL the answers. Within five minutes of waiting in line, he knew exactly how to eliminate the wait, how to expedite the process, how to fix the perceived problem. And he then verbally assaulted a poll worker with his expertise. He had his story and he was sticking to it. He just wanted HIS STORY to be heard. Loudly. And emphatically. What’s that they say about walking a mile in another man’s shoes? Perhaps if he’d gotten up at 4:30 AM to volunteer his assistance at the polls, he’d have seen things differently, he’d have understood another viewpoint. But he didn’t have time for that. He was BUSY. He was IMPORTANT. He was obviously the SMARTEST MAN IN THE ROOM. I was disappointed in myself for not taking a stand. I voted, I exited, and I sat in my car disgusted with that man’s actions and my own decision not to act.
What kind of a friend, family member, neighbor, community, state, nation, world have we become when we treat others with such disdain? When we fail to trust that perhaps someone might have a valid alternative viewpoint? Or that someone might know a little more about the situation than we do? Or that maybe — just maybe — both stories are accurate. And the yelling and screaming and berating gets in the way of understanding.
I’m a strong advocate of Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion. The opening of their mission statement begins like this:
“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”
It doesn’t say anything about making sure that we’re right — always and unequivocally.
If you’re interested in a kinder, gentler world, I encourage you to explore the Charter for Compassion.
I’m starring in the only logical place: with me. I’ll never claim that I’ve perfected it, that I’ve got all the answers, that I haven’t failed time and time again. But I will claim to move forward — with integrity and purpose.
And as a sidebar, here’s our best bit of news this week…
Gus has “a” heart murmur. He does not have “the” kind of heart murmur we need to worry about.
My favorite article, indeed.