Today, I want to offer ideas on why we should challenge the way we think about things.
These days, it seems people cling to positions for which they are unwilling to compromise.
I'll start by asking some fundamental questions.
If you have strong opinions about things, where did these originate?
Did they grow out of the environment of your childhood? From friends? Influencers you admire and respect?
Or did you form them out of your own life experience or via research?
Many times we inherit strong opinions from our parents or grandparents.
Sometimes our views come out of scars from childhood or our experiences as adults.
Whatever the reasons, I think it's healthy to have an open mind; to be willing to listen to alternative views that challenge our own.
You may not agree, and that's OK.
As the saying goes, we can disagree without being disagreeable.
With that, let's dive in.
Like many people today, I bought into the stereotype of Millennials. You know the one, right?
They're living in their parent's basement binge watching Netflix while munching on Nachos their parents fixed or bought for them.
Most have been pampered and feel entitled. Many don't want to work.
If they do work, they want it on their terms and not the employers.
If the employer isn't willing to accommodate, they quit.
It ‘s quite an ugly story. And, gladly, I've learned its an inaccurate portrayal for most Millennials.
The other side of the story
The US Census Bureau says that over a third (34% to be accurate) of Millennials still live with their parents. And that's what we hear most on the news and from Boomers.
What we don't hear about are the other two thirds (66%) who are productive, contributing members of society.
Since entering the blogging community, I've discovered some of the other 66%. We don't hear much about this group.
These folks are some of the brightest and hardest working people I know.
Many come out of college or grad school (yes many have advanced degrees) with massive student loan debt.
Choosing not to let that debt define and control their lives, they become passionate about paying it off.
They adopt simple lifestyles and live below their means. They save and invest. And they are absolute zealots about getting rid of their debt.
They decided to learn from my generation and the generation before who levered up to get the big house, the fancy cars, and lots of stuff.
They've seen the damage that causes and have said, nope. That's not for me.
Read my full Mea Culpa:
How My Perspective on Millennials Has Changed
From the KKK to an African American church
You remember this, right?
It was a rally that turned ugly and became violent. A woman was run over by a car who sped into a crowd of people.
It was a sad scene that had repercussions across the country.
Here's the story.
One of the members of the white supremacists' group, Ken Parker, a confessed member of the KKK felt ill and sat on the sidewalk resting.
He wore his black KKK grand dragon outfit. The heat of the day brought on mild heat exhaustion.
An African American woman, a filmmaker, Deeyah Khan, who was working on her documentary, White Right: Meeting The Enemy, noticed he appeared to be in distress and approached him.
She asked if he was OK and if he needed any help.
Needless to say, he was shocked. Ms. Khan knew he was part of the supremacist group dressed the way he was.
That didn't matter.
She saw someone in need and reached out.
What happened next
Her generosity caused this man to examine his views.
Mr. Parker had a neighbor who was African American.
He reached out to him to talk. He told of his experience at the rally and said he wanted to meet with him to get answers to questions.
The neighbor, William McKinney, was the pastor of a local mostly African American congregation.
Knowing the risks, he agreed to the meetings.
After several months of meetings, the pastor invited him to his church for Easter service.
At that Easter service, Mr. Parker confessed that he was a former grand dragon of the KKK and moved on to become a member of the Nazi party.
Can you imagine the looks on the faces of African American congregation's upon hearing this?
After the service, the congregants greeted Mr. Parker in love and with warm hugs, thanking him for his honesty and confession.
Pastor McKinnon baptized Mr. Parker in July 2018 in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Jacksonville.
NBC News covered the story. You can see it here – Ex-KKK member denounces hate groups one year after rallying in Charlottesville.
Ken Parker was the epitome of someone completely dug into his racist views.
A simple act of kindness from someone in a group for which he had intense hatred, changed his life forever.
I forgot to mention that he's currently in the process of removing all of his racist tattoos.
It's a story of one man, full of hatred, reaching out to someone in the group to which his hate pointed.
It's also the story of a pastor, who's been on the receiving end of this kind of hate for much of his life, being willing to step out in faith to meet with one of his haters.
Racial reconciliation is something I've been passionate about for almost three decades.
My involvement has been via the church.
As Christians, God calls us to unity. If we believe in him and in his Son, we get grafted into the body of Christ.
That body is multicultural and multiethnic. It is not Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or anything else. We are one with Christ and thus one with each other.
It is often said the most segregated hour in the country is 11:00 am on Sunday morning.
Even now, that is mostly still the case.
I don't bring up my faith and work in the church to proselytize or bring attention to the ministry where I spend much of my time.
I believe the lessons of reconciliation found in Scripture have much to teach even if that's not what you believe.
I've personally witnessed multiple instances of confessions like Ken Parker's in African American congregations.
I know many of these folks personally. What the confession did for them and for those on the receiving end of it is nothing short of transformational.
Relationships formed that would have never been possible without each party's willingness to step out in faith and risk getting hurt.
The current social climate
Our country is incredibly divided right now. That's not a news flash for any of us.
I don't intend to enter into any kind of political commentary on the topic.
I'm starting from an area where I think we can all agree.
Social media is full of people screaming at each other advocating their political views over the opposing view.
If that isn't enough, I see them engaging in nasty, personal attacks on those holding the opposite view.
The racial divide is as high as it's been in some time.
The political divide is in the same shape.
I've never seen an argument won or a mind changed with this kind of dialogue.
To the contrary, people dig deeper into their positions and seem to yell louder and louder to make their point.
Lessons we can apply
There are several lessons we can learn from these stories of reconciliation.
- Be open to opposing views – Opposing may not be a good choice of words. Perhaps I should say a differing view. We have to get back to the point where we hear each other and stop yelling. It starts with a willingness to listen. I mean listen, not be thinking about our retort while the other person is talking. It's hard. It also works.
- Be willing to risk getting hurt – Who wants to sign up for that, right? Why would we put ourselves in a position where we know there's a good possibility we're going to get whacked emotionally? Because there's also a possibility you won't. There's a possibility it will be life-changing. Take the risk.
- Understand it's a process – Be realistic about the efforts. One of the most frustrating things for me over the years working in racial reconciliation ministry is the snail's pace of change. I'm not the most patient person on the planet (my wife right now is shouting a resounding AMEN). Keep at it. Ken Parker and William McKinney met for months before things began to change.
- Take the first step – Part of what happens when we're dug into our points of view is we want, even expect, the other person to take the first step. We men especially don't want to be seen as weak. So we want the other person to come to us. Resist that urge. Take the initiative first. It goes a long way to softening the person you're approaching.
If you're willing to look at your own views and determine where you may have blind spots and a closed mind, here are some things to consider.
I'm pretty confident that there is someone in your circle with whom you've had a heated (of varying temperatures) discussion (OK, argument) in the recent past.
It may have cost you a friendship or, at the very least damaged it. Reach out to that person.
Invite them for a cup of coffee or lunch. Tell them their friendship is important to you and you'd like to reconcile.
That approach will be a hard one to decline.
Whether you're Caucasian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, Christian, or any other group, you may have strong feelings about another group.
You know someone in the group for which you hold ill feelings.
It may be at work, at your kids' school, or even at church.
Take the initiative to invite someone to get together.
Maybe your issue is with a family member.
If we're honest, sometimes those are the hardest to heal.
In fact, divisions in the family may be more common than anything else.
Meals are a great tool to bring people together. It's harder to get angry when you're breaking bread together.
I was motivated to share this post due to my recent epiphany about Millennials.
That motivation grew even stronger when I heard the story of reconciliation and transformation born out of one of the worst racially charged events in recent memory.
It got me thinking about what we could do if we modeled these two guys actions.
It starts with being honest with ourselves. We all have some sort of prejudice in us.
We all have strong feelings about things, be it politics, race, sports teams (yes, sports teams), work, or family issues.
If we're willing to take the initiative and step out in faith, change can happen.
The alternative is to live in the status quo in our echo chamber where the only information we seek and find validates our views.
I invite you to challenge the way you think about things.
Doing this won't be easy. The best things in life are often the hardest to achieve.
When achieved, though, they are also the most rewarding.
Understand if you do this, you will likely have setbacks along the way.
However, in my experience doing these things, the benefits are well worth the effort and any setbacks along the way.
So why not give it a try? What you gain will be much greater than anything you might lose.
Now it's your turn. Do you have strong views about certain things? If so, have you thought about how you got those views? Are you open to hearing another view on the topic? Are you willing to sit down with someone who holds that view?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.