Communication that could change the world…
Recently, I received a phone call from a friend who desired a safe space to share an experience of being talked at, rather than talked to. She was visiting with a family member, catching up on life, and discussing a variety of topics when an opinion-pusher invited themselves into their conversation to set them both straight about everything they were wrong about. The negative outcome my friend felt from the exchange was not so much the opinions themselves but rather the need of the other person to be right about their point of view, rather than being willing to discuss their differing ideas.
We all have a point of view, an idea of how things should be, and a right to express those ideas. Yet how we choose to communicate our intention behind what we are saying goes a long way to having our expressions received. I have observed in the world today that most feel an overwhelming need to share their opinions, whether they are helpful or not. In my friend’s case, no thought was given to how the uninvited communication would land or whether or not they would even be interested in discussing differing points of view at the time. Had the Buttinski asked to join the conversation, instead of just barfing opinion all over them, a much different outcome could have been created.
For me, real communication has nothing to do with being right; it has to do with being heard. Being right turns communication into debate or, worse, argument. Debate can be healthy, for often that is how we learn and grow. Debate causes us to think about issues, where we stand, and why we believe what we do. Being right is where communication ends and righteousness begins. At least in debate one listens to the other point of view before offering a counterpoint or a positional response. Real communication, however, has zero need to be right about its point of view. Healthy communication allows all points of view to be heard and then the freedom for the participants to agree or disagree without consequence.
For example, over the years of working with the Conversations with God Foundation, I have received some rather confrontational communications around religious belief. Because I was listed on the website as “Reverend JR,” I would sometimes receive mail from people attempting to “save my lost soul.” It is held by some that CwG is of the “devil” and those of us who find value in it would soon see the error of our ways in hell. According to a few of my concerned “soul savers,” I, as a reverend, would find myself in a “special place of hell” for leading my flock away from the one true savior.
I used to respond to these letters with the thought that surely we could discuss our ideas about God in a way that could be productive and beneficial for both of us but that the need to be right thing far too often got in the way. I quickly realized that with most of these letters, the writers were not interested in having a dialogue, but rather a monologue. There is no conversation in a monologue and no opportunity to grow if you think you already have all the answers. My interest in finding common ground and expanding our mutual understanding of God was, in the end, lost to this “need to be right” obsession.
Being a lifelong student, I love to converse with people from all over the world, from different backgrounds, religions, and all points of view. I learn so much about myself, about life, and about God from these conversations. I decided long ago that I would honor all faiths and all points of view and let go of the need to be right about anything, especially for someone else. Instead, I would trust that each person could and would decide what works for them and that there is great value in discussing ideas and listening to alternate points of view. It is amazing what a conversation can create.
It is from this place that the beginning of conversations that could change the world reside. The necessary ingredients of these conversations begins with respect and tolerance. My Father use to say that respect and tolerance would heal the world. Think about it. What would happen tomorrow if we all awoke without the need to be right?
What if no one felt the need to be right about anything they currently held as a truth? What if each of us felt secure enough within to look at our own beliefs and even became willing to challenge those beliefs by listening to alternate points of view? What if we were willing to take a fresh look at all of our deeply held ideas to see if more could be revealed through inquiry?
For example, is humanity convinced that God, if there is a God, has said all there is to say about life? If so, why hasn’t religion solved the major challenges that face humanity by now? Why are the greatest numbers of us still suffering? Perhaps there is more to be communicated about God and about life. Perhaps there is more to know, the knowing of which would change everything.
It takes great courage and strength to stand in the place of “I am willing to be wrong about that.” Freedom lives on the other side of this equation. For if you lack the need to be right, nothing needs to happen for you to be at peace.
You see, if the above statement was true for you, your happiness meter would go off the chart. It would also be the end of many of the circumstances and conditions that do not work in our world today. We are the world’s circumstances in motion. What we choose every day affects the whole of us.
Could we all benefit from letting go of the need be right? You bet. The need to be right seems to me to be one of our greatest addictions and one of the reasons we are evolving so slowly.
When I look out upon the landscape of humanity, whether historically or now, the need to be right has been the cause of so much pain, tragedy, and heartache. It isn’t just God or religion. Look at every system in the world today. The need to be right has shut down real communication in favor of positions and arguments that continue to lead to things like war.
The media is responsible for some of it, for sure, with Facebook, reality TV, and opinion-driven product blasting points-of-view content at you 24/7. But we have to take responsibility for our participation in it. Energy grows where energy goes. Stop participating in these systems and watch how quickly they will change.
The tool required to let go of the need to be right is critical thinking. Critical thinking is not a skill taught in school; it is developed by people who become willing to step back and consider differing points of view, by those willing to engage in real conversation, inquiry, and dialogue. This is the missing link in our human condition right now. This is the thing that could change everything.
Critical thinking develops this kind of communication that could and would change the world. What is required is the ability to see that what works for you may not work for another. Are you willing to consider the possibility that your way may not be THE WAY but, rather, simply another way? The statement from Conversations with God applies here perfectly: “Ours is not a better way, ours is merely another way.”
This kind of thinking applied, this kind of communication expressed, this kind of willingness to be open to new possibilities and new thoughts will be used by the people who do change the world. Why not let that be you?
PS: I’m willing to be wrong about all of it!
(J.R. Westen, D.D. is a Holistic Health & Spiritual Counselor who has worked and presented side-by-side with Neale Donald Walsch for over a decade. He is passionate about helping individuals move beyond their emotional and spiritual challenges, transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs. His counseling and coaching provides practical wisdom and guidance that can be immediately incorporated to shift one’s experience of life.
As is true for most impactful teachers, J.R.’s own struggles and triumphs inspired him to find powerful ways of helping others. Sober since June 1, 1986, J.R.’s passion for helping individuals move through intense life challenges drove him to also specialize in Addiction and Grief Recovery.
J.R. currently shares his gift of counseling & coaching with individuals from around the world through the Wellness Center, Simply Vibrant, located on Long Island N.Y. In addition, he operates “Change House” a place where people come to transform. He also works with Escondido Sobering Services and now serves as the Director for the Conversations with God Foundation. He can be contacted at JR@CWG.ORG or JR@theglobalconversation.com, or to book an appointment, write firstname.lastname@example.org.)