What is your experience of having a discussion with a colleague, friend, acquaintance, about an issue over which you disagree strongly? My experience, and observation, of these discussions personally, in the media and in the public realm, is that there is typically a lot of heat and a not a lot of light. Arguments are fired across entrenched identity-defined battle lines, and a key virtue seems to be to emerge with one's preconceptions unchanged. 

This morning, scanning my social media feeds, I think I've got at least a bit of an idea of what is going on in our culture. Let me try it out for your assessment...

Is it possible that many (or most) of our interactions, particularly with people from other 'tribes' in the political/economic/organisational/theological domains, are characterized by hot heads and cold hearts, rather than by cool heads and warm hearts? 

What do I mean by this?

Well, it seems to me that the best way to work together, to thrash out difficult and complex problems and arguments, is to combine a warm heart (a genuine respect, regard and even love for the other) with a cool head (a non-anxious, calm, dispassionate openness of mind to deeply and rigorously engage with all the evidence and arguments). This is the exact opposite of what we experience so often - cold hearts (a disdain and hatred at worst, a disengagement at best, for the other) and a hot head (a mind so controlled by fight or flight, so driven by feelings and passion, that it cannot do more than rehearse emotional precommitments masquerading as ideas). 

Can you see how building a culture of warm hearts and cool heads would go a long way to enabling us to work together to address all the complex challenges we face (in our families, workplaces, cities, nation states and globe)?

It is all too easy for to inflame heads with demagoguery and to douse hearts with the icy chill of contempt. We need followers who will not walk this well-trodden path, but will rather demand of their leaders the very opposite. And we need leaders who will have the courage to mobilize followers with love - love for others, even those with whom they  disagree, and love for the truth, even when it contradicts or confuses long held beliefs. 

What do you think? 

2 Comments