Weekend Reflections for 5/25/18
Reconciliation through dialogue with our human neighbors in this world.
Continuing our theme of reconciliation as a priority in all Jesuit ministries, we consider a fundamental characteristic of the Ignatian ministry of reconciliation with other human beings: the priority of dialogue over debate. Recall Ignatius’ directions to the Jesuits summoned as theological consultors at the Council of Trent, that they engage in dialogue rather than debate, as well as Ignatius’ “Presupposition” to the Spiritual Exercises  “…Every good Christian adopts a more positive acceptance of someone’s statement rather than a rejection of it out of hand. And so a favorable interpretation…should always be given to the other’s statement, and confusions should be cleared up with Christian understanding.”[i]
We might examine ourselves this week on how we are called to the ministry of dialogue rather than debate at home, at work, in community, in society at large[ii] as part of the fruits of our ongoing involvement in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises at White House Jesuit Retreat.
Dialogue vs. Debate
- Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding.
- Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
- In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
- In debate, winning is the goal.
- In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement.
- In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
- Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view.
- Debate affirms a participant's own point of view.
- Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation.
- Debate defends assumptions as truth.
- Dialogue causes introspection on ones own position.
- Debate causes critique of the other position.
- Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.
- Debate defends one's own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.
- Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
- Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
- In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, knowing that other people's reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
- In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
- Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one's beliefs.
- Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one's beliefs.
- In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
- In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
- In dialogue one searches for strengths in the other positions.
- In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.
- Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.
- Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.
- Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.
- Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.
- Dialogue remains open-ended.
- Debate implies a conclusion.[iii]
-Fr. Ted Arroyo, S.J.
[i] David L. Fleming, S. J., “Draw Me Into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises: a Literal Translation & a Contemporary Reading” p. 23
[ii] The Jesuits’ GC36 settled on these 3 priorities for Reconciliation within Humanity:
People on the move
Fundamentalism that leads to violence
[iii] Adapted from a paper prepared by Shelley Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR).