I recently read an article in the Biola Magazine that asked a very pertinent question, “In a time of intense polarization and provocation is there any hope for a return to civility?” The article contained a conversation that several Biola professors had about a new project called the Winsome Conviction Project and it features their book Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church.
I love the title and the concept of being able to have very meaningful conversations that reflect very different viewpoints but have them in a “winsome way.”
Winsome is an older English term that means attractive or appealing. And many of us would have to admit that a number of our conversations this past year have been anything but WINSOME. So, I intend on getting the book, but in the meantime, let me share some of their pearls of wisdom.
In a world of “passionate polarization” we most certainly need a sense of civility. We are in an “argument culture” where finding common ground is seen as a kind of weakness. To help turn that around, these profs suggested that we reclaim the intent to communicate relationally in addition to communicating our content.
A Biblical example would be when Paul says in Ephesian 4:15 that we are to speak the truth. That is content. But he goes on to say that we are to speak that truth in love. That is the relational part.
Relational communication keeps the person we are talking to in the center of our focus. We watch for signs of anger or frustration and back things down a bit. We consciously use kinder facial expressions, we inject some gentle humor and pause frequently to see how things are going. We just don’t allow the discourse to violate our commitment to each other.
The writers also emphasized the importance to understanding the difference between absolute convictions and personal convictions. The absolute conviction is one that is universally held by all believers. An example would be the means of our salvation, or the inerrancy of scripture and so on. But the personal conviction is an individual matter, and it is formed by our own opinion. That opinion ought to be a reflection of scripture as well. But, well meaning, Godly folks can disagree about it. We need to remember that just because we believe something doesn’t make it an absolute conviction for everyone else.
And lastly I loved the way the author wrote about the importance of capturing not only what someone believes but capturing how they feel about that issue. Understanding their feelings about the subject will allow us to continue the dialogue with compassion and civility.
So, let’s try it this week. Let’s try to disagree without being disagreeable. Let’s try to “get both people on the same side of the table and the problem on the other side.” May our conversations be meaningful but kind. Let’s be winsome and keep in mind Ephesians 4:29, as we let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths, but only such as is good for building up, giving grace to those who hear.