Tension. Lately, my heart has been overwhelmed with the intricacies of human thought, motivation and behavior. People perceive situations and process information and experiences so differently, it’s a wonder the world hasn’t yet exploded (or imploded) from the chaos and pain this tension creates.
I discovered the dialectics of thinking my freshman year of college. In an oversimplified explanation, this is the general concept: For every idea (thesis) there is an opposite idea (antithesis). A reconciliation of these two ideas in a paradox creates a new idea (synthesis). For all of the dialectical theory’s flaws when applied to economics, political systems, philosophy and everything else, I do see this kind of thinking played out in the mechanics of faith, introspection and relationship.
Over coffee with a friend the other evening, she drew attention to one of my quirks: I tend to explore ideas from every facet, embracing the extremes and truly contemplating them, trying to reconcile the validity of two opposing arguments. This makes me come across as remarkably inconsistent and indecisive, as I am always adapting when new thoughts or opinions are introduced.
Open-mindedness to a fault.
I’ve been wrestling with this aspect of myself more and more recently, trying to understand and expose both the pitfalls and glory of such a mindset.
I am a firm believer that for every Truth or Value, there is not one but TWO opposites. That every value is the mean of two opposites. This tension plays out beautifully in the story of the gospel. Faith and works. Grace and freedom. Jesus, both God and Man. God, Three yet One. Kingdom, both here and not yet.
It plays out in relationships: logic and emotion. alone time and community. Vulnerability and boundaries.
We are constantly living in a state of tension, trying to reconcile opposite ends of the same paradox.
I tested nearly 100% N on the Myers-Briggs test. Meaning, in my own thoughts and in my relationships with people, I’m usually [constantly] unraveling meaning and dissecting motives and searching for underlying patterns in everything. It can be exhausting. And it can get me into trouble, especially if I began to perceive things that are not really there. I think I’ve toned down in this a lot in the past couple of years and have been able to just let go and live in the moment and not be so concerned with unraveling other people’s motives or reading into people’s reactions. Other people–friends past and present–have graciously [but brutally] shown me that the reality I perceive may not be the same as the reality they perceive. Or more importantly, reality as it is. It’s been hard, it’s been challenging, but extremely necessary.
But the extremity of this tendency of mine does resurface.
And I’m realizing more and more: we’re all approaching True Reality from opposing perspectives and trying to meet each other on some common ground.
I’m in the middle of reading “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. I’m moving through the pages slowly than I typically do, trying to savor the words and wrap my mind around the truth. As much as I have thought about [and experienced] grace over the years, I do not believe I have contemplated it to this intense degree. It’s really kind of earth-shattering to me, how the patterns of grace are so contrary to the patterns of ungrace that are ingrained in the DNA of the world. Yancey talks about the “atrocious mathematics of grace,” explaining this as someone giving up something that costs them everything to someone who deserves absolutely nothing. And how unnaturally far and removed that seems to be from our own day-to-day experience in the economics of being human. I’ve understood that idea theoretically, maybe even theologically, but translating the atrocious mathematics of grace into every day relationships and attitude is a bit staggering to me.
I’m still processing. The implications are overwhelming.
So far, 2009 has been this crash course in communication and perception, revisiting and reworking the validity of intuition. 2008 was a wonderful year in which this tendency of mine learned rest and restraint.
It’ll be interesting to see where this leads in the upcoming year…