Guest Writer: Josh Senft
Why is it that we as human beings fail to offer each other the courtesy of being honest? Of being frank. Of telling hard truths.
Many of us walk on eggshells, cowardly, as though every critical word we utter will render deep, negative consequences or “trigger” someone.
Now don’t misunderstand me — mental health is a serious concern. I’m not saying we need to be callous. But our subjective definitions of callousness, of “hate” and being “offensive” are limiting the scope of our conversations and hurting our national dialogue.
Somehow we have arrived at this point where making even a well-intentioned, yet critical or concerned remark to someone is seen as judgmental. We have decided that when we disagree with one’s life choices, it must mean we harbor hate towards them.
When we fail to tell our fellow Christ followers that their lifestyle choices violate Biblical mandate under the pretense of being “accepting,” we hurt them.
When we fail to tell our friend who is living a sedentary lifestyle that they are risking their physical health, we hurt them.
When we fail to witness to the unbeliever and pretend they aren’t missing anything valuable, we hurt them.
As a Christ follower, I know my duty is to speak the truth in love. And when we attempt to make truth relative, it is no longer truth. Not to mention, it’s self-serving. We long to avoid even mildly difficult encounters without our peers. We opt for silence, bringing us short-term satisfaction while inflicting long-term damage. We should tell the truth because we love people.
One of my heroes, the late Dr. Charles Krauthammer once said, “You’re betraying your whole life if you don’t say what you think and you don’t say it honestly and bluntly.”
And I understand where people are coming from when they bemoan that everyone has an opinion nowadays and they need to stop saying it so much. But rather than shutting up, how about we refine our approach? How about we try not to impugn our neighbor’s motives? Rather than running from tough conversations, let’s embrace them. Pursue dialogue—monologue in perpetuity leads nowhere good.
And in many cases, we see a lack of engagement through hostile means, such as censorship. Arbitrary definitions of so-called “hateful” or “offensive” speech have led to both cries of martyrdom from some who exhibit truly detestable views, as well as righteous indignation from a number of warriors for truth.
I think Megyn Kelly put it well, once writing, “I believe in the right to offend. To insult. Even to horrify. It’s not that we’re supposed to enjoy it; it’s that we’re supposed to allow it and then respond in a more persuasive voice. That’s the bedrock of the First Amendment—the answer to speech you do not like is not less speech, it’s more speech.”
And further, I believe some of our healthiest discussions occur in person, over coffee and long drives. Social media can be useful in populating the marketplace of ideas, though it lacks the intentionality and the broad canvas available in a face-to-face discussion. There isn’t room for nuance much elsewhere. Even this medium is limited.
So my challenge to you all: go buy a coffee for the person you disagree with. Talk to them. Try to understand how their life experiences formed their conclusions. In the course of that discussion, perhaps you will learn something, and perhaps they will too. Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s okay, because the important part is ultimately this: that we care enough about each other to try to understand.
Josh is a senior national
security major from Middletown, Ohio.