Looking for the good

July 10, 2019 · Print This Article

I do like a robust debate. The verbal sparring and intellectual chest thumping are all quite entertaining. You may have seen last night’s debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, both vying to be the next Prime Minister.

But after all the ‘blue-on-blue’ shots are fired, there is a cost. Two people from the same team end up further away from each other than they did at the start. Maybe more than this, they probably have a job detoxing all their anger and bitterness from the previous night’s vitriol. This would give anybody’s emotional plumbing a workout. But let’s be honest, even the most forgiving amongst us would have a job letting go of some of those penetrating comments.

The point is, words create unintended consequences: they can create distance, resentment, and end friendships. Now, I’m no snowflake who thinks debates should be sanitised into a rainbow and unicorn pageant. But I believe, in debate, or any difficult conversation, there is a better way.

This better way was offered to Johnson and Hunt in yesterday’s debate. It came from the last question asked:

“What do you most admire about your opponent?”, came the question. It drew a small chuckle from the audience – they knew this may be the hardest and most humbling question for both to answer.

Johnson and Hunt answered with creative ambiguity: an answer which was very much a two-sided compliment that simultaneously showed the opponents weakness.

Maybe they should have taken a leaf out the book of a man who probably had as many public confrontations as we’ve had hot dinners. He was a man who learnt how to navigate the hostile territory of the debate, and those who wanted to run him down. No surprises when I tell you that it was a religious environment that bred this contempt. And the target for the contempt was the Jesus of the Bible.

I like Jesus for many reasons. But one of them is how he handled hostility.

Jesus had some advice for all of us when in the arena of confrontation. It is advice that stems from the question asked to Johnson and Hunt: look for the good in others. Jesus put it like this:

Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.[1]

Ok, easier said than done. But if done, things end a lot better.

Notes:

[1] The Bible, Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)

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