(winning) the war of words

Respectful, two-way conversation is at a premium today.

There is an urgent need to restore this basic building block of community and mutual understanding, which is about the only thing that can truly foster peace in our times. If we are not living in an age of peace, but of war, then it makes sense that respectful, two-way conversation would be among the first casualties.

But this is sad, as good conversation has always inspired me.

I consider good conversation the core of effective communication and strong relationship. It speaks to my mind, enriches social connections, informs my work, takes me out of myself and brings me back to soulful basics.

A good conversation. Sounds so simple, something holistic and human. Yet, this simple human form of exchange holds potential to elevate individuals and engage community. It can even connect us to the divine, moving from the credulous to the incredible. The possibilities are endless.

Good conversation not only jazzes the world, it’s the relational blood that flows between us. It fosters empathy, common goals and lasting friendships. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true: communication breakdown can be a living hell. We know what it is to be heard and respected. And we know what it is to be negated or neglected. Understood or misunderstood. One scenario unleashes possibility and brings new life, the other squashes our voice, ushering in a kind of death.

When we feel understood, when we feel heard, we are open to hearing others. Relationship thrives. When we feel misunderstood—or fail to hear others—relationship breaks down.

To converse says, “I’m interested in you. I want to hear more. You are worth my time and attention.” Likewise, to ignore or shut someone down mid-stream says, “You are wasting my time. You are no one to me. Go away.” Yikes! These are powerful messages we send each other day-in, day-out through the everyday act of conversing (or not).

There is no such thing as a one-way conversation. To converse is to relate with an open heart and mind to what the other person is offering, which, to some extent, is themselves.

For many, this makes simple, straightforward conversation anything but. Each of us brings our built-in biases, drivers, fears and dreams to the mix, often tripping us up in our efforts to move forward.

The more fearful we feel, the less we seem to share in physical,
emotional and even social ways.

But in good times and in bad, conversation remains one of the most powerful human interactions. As we seek to connect, we transfer warmth and light (actively resisting the dim dampness of secrecy and isolation). We reach out. We offer hope. This is because attempted conversation suggests a (bold or tentative) desire to be known, respected, heard and understood—and do likewise to others. It is an act of charity, of love.

And love never fails.

It appears, then, that conversation is for optimists. People who believe in a future for humanity. These are the people who take the time to stop and listen, to have a conversation. These are the people heading towards a brighter day, regardless of what the Lord has in store. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to stop talking, bunker down and shut each other out. The opportunity to speak the truth in love to each other, to talk about the things that matter, to share our beliefs and fears and troubles is now.

It is always timely to turn toward the light, to take time to talk and walk together.
We might even gain time as we do.