How many times have you been having a conversation about your values or beliefs—political, theological, spiritual, nutritional—and been met with absolute statements? People say things like: “The truth of the matter is that…” or “what you don’t know is that…” or “this is that way…”
Telling people how things are, what the truth is, and what they don’t know, in relation to beliefs and values is extremely unhelpful in a two-sided dialogue.
The fix is simple, yet powerful. All you have to do is qualify statements with the words “what I believe” or “what we believe” or “my tradition says” and so on. It doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a world of difference. Even when you believe that what you are saying is the absolute truth, you are not betraying your belief by stating that, in fact, it is a belief. Rather, you are opening yourself up to dialogue.
If you tell me what you believe, then I can respond by telling you what I believe. But if you tell me how things are, then the probability of the dialogue turning into an argument increases.
Simple is Not Always Easy
Naturally, this approach is only for those who want to engage in a respectful two-sided dialogue, not for people who want spurt monologues at each other. However, don’t let the simplicity of it fool you. Even with the best of intentions, this approach can be hard to maintain.
I recall one teacher at my interfaith seminary. He was very good about telling us what this tradition or that tradition believed, but sometimes, when he expressed his own beliefs, he would put them forth in absolutes and not qualify them as beliefs of his own. He didn’t see his belief system, which was outside of the realm of traditional religion, to be a system of beliefs, but rather he saw it as the truth.
A Form of Self-Exploration
This approach, of qualifying statements about beliefs and values with words such as “I believe” or “my tradition says,” is also a form of self-exploration. Making an internal distinction between beliefs and empirical facts is an exercise that everyone can benefit from. When you point out the difference in conversation and make it clear that you know what you believe, you will open the door for others to do the same.
Be a guest blogger
Be a guest blogger
Our Vision and Primary Goal
We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We envision a world where people have access to strategies, methods and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge building across divides. To us, interfaith means the continual improvement of interrelations between people who strongly believe in different worldviews. Our primary goal is to support and supplement new and ongoing efforts.
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay in touch. You can also connect with us on social media.
©Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
Connect With Us
Subscribe to Newsletter