Talking Straight

I can’t stand conflict. But there’s something I loathe even more: when people who are upset with each other talk past each other instead of to each other. I’ve been harping on this for years in politics, but recently it’s come home to me that it happens an awful lot in places much closer to home.

There’s a relationship in my family’s life that is riddled with this dysfunction: you see a problem, you ask for an answer, and there’s either a complete lack of response, or the entity on the other side of the line issues its “message points” instead of answering the question. Is it any wonder that a person who approaches communication in good faith and gets message points in return ends up feeling, well, enraged?

Unfortunately, it’s a common dysfunction. I’ve come to believe it is the source of tremendous unnecessary angst and lack of peace in the modern world. As I ponder this, weighed down by the frustration and bewilderment that comes from beating your head on a brick wall you can’t avoid, I realize something else: we live in a world defined by fear and lack of trust. People use their message points because they’re afraid if they address the questions on the other side of a conflict openly and honestly, it’ll come back to bite them. They’ll get sued, they’ll get in trouble with their superiors, or whatever.

My whole life, I’ve been conditioned to look at the big picture, and so for years, when I ponder questions like this, I’ve gone straight to its impact on issues of global or at least national import. But everything big starts small. If protectionist passive-aggressiveness is what we as individuals face in interacting with individuals or local entities (and how often are we the guilty party?), then of course the larger world looks this way, too. It’s like those mosaics made up of hundreds of tiny thumbnails. One individual incident doesn’t change the world—but all together, they form a global pattern.

“Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no,” Jesus says. His context is different, but it applies all the same: Just lay it out straight. Don’t dance around. Be authentic and communicate in good faith.

What if changing the world could really be that simple?

**(Note: I did not say “easy.” I said “simple.”)**

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