“Real dialogue is where two or more people become willing to suspend their certainty in each other’s presence.”
I wish I knew the source of this quote. But it has been hanging around my mind lately and it reached into the front of my focus today. It so happened, that I recently attended an LCWR meeting about the future of religious life and a little flareup happened at my table when some of us disagreed with the notion of being “ecclesial women”. Sometimes all you have to do is mention THE CHURCH and sparks fly, tempers flare, and dialogue shuts down.
In this instance, the CHURCH meant the hierarchy, and the whole ball of wax around authority, moral failures, the chauvinistic, superior, clerical picture that is painted sometimes about the Catholic Church in the universal sense. As opposed to the beautiful, glorious, all-embracing, familiar, tradition that is also the Catholic Church in the universal sense.
Of course, Dominicans subscribe to the idea of “disputatio.” That is, the willingness of two people to listen carefully enough to each other that they can suspend their own judgment of each other. Both parties agree to engage in the pursuit of truth together. Both are willing to recognize that pursuing the truth— by acknowledging the value in the other person’s thinking— can lead to a better understanding and acceptance of the other. Thus, both gain new insight and perhaps, a moment of peace.
But be warned, talking to one another in this way is not easy. There are costs and obligations of true dialogue. It takes practice to become willing to suspend certainty in each other’s presence. It takes conscience effort to suspend your own judgment of each other. There is a burden in knowing the truth, in being open to the Spirit, who will tell you what you need to know.
And talking to each other in this way could cause a revolution. It might result in a more thoughtful approach to hundreds of things, like dinner table conversation, public hearings on social problems, not to mention a church where everyone can find a home and be respected for who they are.
Imagine our world when talking to each other actually results in action. If we can’t even talk to each other then how in heck are we to solve the serious social problems we face? Can we talk? I’m not so sure today.
Dear God, grant me the courage to suspend my own certainty long enough to hear what another person is saying. Help me not see it as holding my breath until the other stops talking. But that I would breathe through the conversation, inhaling their ideas and allowing my own to exhale in a gentle letting go. Help me to be patient, and willing to listen openly to others, especially the people with whom I disagree.