The Retooled and Refueled Seminar happens on weekends, but when I am in town I have meetings. All of us have been in a staff meeting, at a church gathering, or in a conference where someone presented an idea or perspective with which we disagreed. Not just a little bit. Oh no. This person’s idea was the stupidest thing you’d ever heard! If you identify with this frustration, then what I’m about to share may be helpful.

I grew up with what sociologists are now calling a “modern worldview.” Simply put, this means that I (like most people from the eighteenth century forward) believe that truth is absolute. And if an individual simply stacks up enough facts, it will bring him to an inescapable, undeniable, and undisputable conclusion. While I do believe in absolute truth, I also am aware

that many people (predominately those under forty-five or so) don’t share my worldview. They are known as “post-modernists.” These people tend to believe that truth is relative. Some of this thinking harkens back to the 1960s and 1970s when we were told that “you’re okay and I’m okay” and “if it feels good, do it.” Summed up in a phrase, their life view essentially says, “What works for you is fine—but that same ‘truth’ may not work for me, and that is fine, too.”

While I am not an apologist for post-modernism, I do think there are some lessons for us modernists to learn from our younger friends—and them from us. As I said, I do affirm a belief in absolute truth. But, sadly, we modernists have gone to unforgivable extremes. In an attempt to “get it right” we have often allowed our fact-stacking to become the rankest form of legalism. And it’s that very arrogance that has emboldened the post-modernist to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. They look at those of my sort and say, “He has no passion, no soul. Everything is a matter of facts and data for that guy. What happened to his ‘heart’ and his imagination? Why isn’t he wondrously intrigued and mystified by the unknowable? Why does he claim to know more about God’s will than God has chosen to tell us? Where is the heart and soul—the mystery—in his faith?”

Those, my dear modernist friend, are fair questions. If we are ever going to have connection and rapport with others, we must first understand the viewpoint of others. And to understand another, we must really hear what she is trying to say. This doesn’t mean that I have to agree. But it also doesn’t mean that I must disagree disagreeably.

As a stepping off point, I would suggest that differing with another person does not require (or permit) me to diminish or deny his personhood. Most people speak words that they believe are true, beneficial, and affirming. They may be wrong—but it’s not always the wisest play for me to be the first to tell them so.

What if we did things differently? What if, instead of me protecting my own turf, I simply listened and pondered what is said? What if I made a concerted effort to look for the good, the positive, and the accurate in what he says? What if I sincerely searched for common ground?

I noticed this dynamic being played out in my own marriage a number of years ago. Granted, Bonnie and I are the same age and share a similar heritage. We’re pretty much on the same page in most situations. We agree on the big issues. But that is not to say we haven’t had our share of, shall I say, disagreements.

For the first years of our marriage I was an arrogant husband. Simply put: My way was right and Bonnie’s way was wrong. Of course, I was never bold (or honest) enough to state that in so many words—but looking back, I realize that’s what I believed. I was frequently dismissive and disrespectful of Bon’s positions and thoughts. But as the years passed, I finally began to