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Doors, and How to Be Nice

The point here at Spectrum is an open door — the open door of dialogue.

The problem is that there are different kinds of open. The kind Spectrum was made for is the kind where every voice has a right to be heard. The kind it was not made for is the kind where people can say whatever they want, however they want to.

Why can’t we have both? you ask. Well… because the openness of the latter kind tends to close the door on the former kind.

For instance: Billy Joe Bob is starting to feel that heaven is not a physical reality. He brings this up. “You’re wrong,” I say (which is what I believe). “That’s a lousy idea,” I add (which I think). “The Bible says such-and-such” (which it does) “and if you don’t accept it, what’s the point?” (which makes sense to me).

The result? No discussion about heaven. No learning achieved for Billy Joe Bob, or for me. I have not tried to grapple with the implications or possibilities of Billy Joe Bob’s thinking. I’ve been “open” in telling him what’s what, but I have been totally closed in entering genuine Christian dialogue with him.

I run into a number of closed doors on Spectrum discussions. I realize that most people closing doors probably don’t intend to. So here’s a list of ways to write that leave the doors open — while still allowing us to truly express ourselves.

Say “I.” Closed door: “that idea is preposterous.” Open door: “As I see it, that idea is preposterous.”

Ask for more. Closed door: “Here’s what’s correct and here’s why.” Open door: “Here’s what I think is correct and here’s why. But I’m grappling with your point about such-and-such. Could you explain a little more?”

Admit your bias. Closed door: “That idea is preposterous.” Open door: “That idea is preposterous — but then, I’ve spent my whole life in California, where people all agree that that idea is preposterous!”

Say please and thank you. (Yes, Mom, this one’s for you) Closed door: “I guess we’ll never agree on this topic, so maybe we should quit.” Open door: “It seems that, at least in this kind of impersonal discussion, we’ll never come to an understanding. But thanks for being willing to hash it out!”

Okay, so sometimes open doors take two or three more words. But it can help express the openness and respect that you may have in your “voice” but people can’t hear in the typed word. I think it’s worth it and… thanks for being willing to hash it out!

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