Meditations on R & W

Some Other Frames

  • Buddhists often use the term “beneficial” to describe life-affirming and healthy characteristics.
  • Aldo Leopold, a naturalist, has used the language, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Note that, even though the words ‘right and wrong’ are used, he also describes those concepts using the word “tends,” which is similar to a preference.
  • Richard Rorty has written about lessening cruelty and humiliation in the world by creating solidarity and understanding between more people…i.e., empathy. Rorty writes that there may be no stand-alone right/wrong reasons for why we would want to decrease suffering, other than that all of us humans suffer. It seems that most of us would prefer to decrease suffering, even if we can’t objectively prove why that is.
  • An objective lens on morality suggests that morality relates to the well-being of conscious creatures. That well-being depends on many factors, ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics, and maximizing those which enable us to seek happiness and avoid misery.
  • According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. There are over 50 versions of the Bible – and that doesn’t count the Apocrypha. There is no common belief held universally in all Christian denominations. The most common response is that all Christians believe in the messianic tradition fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth, son of God – yet that tradition was only solidified in the First Council of Nicaea – and antitrinitarian movements formed as a response and continue to this day.
  • Judaism similarly has a huge number of sects/denominations. Even in its earliest iteration, there were four main branches of Judaism – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots – each of which held differing beliefs with regard to both faith and scripture.
  • Losing attachment to strategies and wants – Needs Shifting. Hold your Needs dearly, and your strategies lightly.

Civil Conversation Virtues

Words Matter, Facts Don’t: Words shape how we see the world and convey truth in a way facts don’t.

Fully Embodied Listening: Listening is more than being quiet while others have their say. It is about presence as much as receiving; it is about connection more than observation.

Civility is an Adventure, not an Exercise in Niceness: Honor the difficulty of what we face and the complexity of what it means to be human.

Humility is a Companion to Curiosity: Humility is not about getting small. It’s about encouraging others to be big.

Patience: Patience is a commitment to move through the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

Hospitality is a Universal Language: You don’t have to love, forgive, or feel compassion to offer hospitality.

Holding Space: “Holding space is to walk alongside another in whatever journey they’re on, without judging, trying to fix them, or impact the outcome.” -You
Holding space goes beyond listening.  It requires us to hear the other person, have empathy and not make make the situation about us by trying to give insight, “fix” or offer advice. Holding space is the practice of recognizing the intrinsic and extrinsic needs of the other while being aware of our own. Staying mindful of your breath can be an anchor to presence. While you are actively learning about someone else, you are passively teaching someone about yourself.

adapted from “Better Conversations: A Starter’s Guide” by the Civil Conversations Project

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again..… The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – Pema Chodron

Create the Conditions for Civil Conversation

Outline from the beginning that this gathering (at least initially) is not about reaching any resolution or conclusions. It is about connecting the people behind the ideas and beliefs. No one will be advocating for others to see things their way. No one will feel pressured to give up the ground they stand on. Stating this very clearly can be disarming, and the first step of creating the conditions of civil conversation.

Tools for Delving Further
Write down specific questions

  • Reference these question throughout the conversation to stay on topic
  • Get curious about what forms their worldview (cultural background, early childhood)
  • Ask open-ended questions

Hitting the pause button

  • Stop the conversation and take 3 deep breaths.
  • Stand-up or adopt a radically different body posture.
  • Embrace silence, sit with it, take a break.

Language of reframing

  • “Tell me what you mean when you use that word.”
  • “Help me get a full picture of what that means to you.”
  • Ask opened questions, Yes/No questions can stifle the conversation


  • Substitute “I agree” or “We agree” rather that using the word right or wrong
  • Trains the mind to see the discussion as contextual, rather than absolute.
  • Use ‘my view’ instead of ‘it is’ this way


  • You don’t need to agree with them to validate them.
  • Confirm the meaningfulness of their experience.
  • “I understand what you’re saying, and….”

Be Mindful of Time

  • Set clear agreements about how long you plan to talk.
  • Utilize a talking stick or hand signal method in group conversations.
  • Respect and uphold time considerations.

Rubber meets the Road

  • Believing/Doubting game
  • What are the possibilities?
  • Compelling positive vision
  • What are our needs?

Triggered! Now what

  • What is meaningful and important to each of us?
  • (Flooded) Hendrick institute model
  • Acknowledge the trigger.
  • Put the conversation on pause.
  • Write down the details of what prompted the trigger-food for thought
  • Becoming triggered is gift, it has something to tell us about our own strong views


Formulate a question for everyone to carry out into the world and, if you plan to meet again, to frame your next gathering. You might get there by asking people to share one of the following:

  • Something you’ve learned from someone else during the meeting.
  • Something you’re still thinking about.
  • Something you want to talk more about at the next gathering.


Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. – Albert Einstein

Win the Battle, Lose the War – timeless wisdom

“My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position [imposing “the good”] would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under of robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some points be satiated; but those who torment us for their own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to heaven, yet at the same time likely to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on the level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” – CS Lewis
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi 
“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” – Leo Tolstoy 
It’s a strange truth that no matter how persuaded we might be of our own correctness, the discomfiting realization that others disagree with us causes a paralyzing inability to argue the case convincingly. – Brittney Ryan 
“Before I knowed it, I was saying out loud, ‘The hell with it! There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say.” ― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath 
“If you think you’re good people, and if you are, how would you know? Is it something you always knew? Or was it something you found? Some people are naturally good at it […]. Is it worth trying to be something you’re not? Just because it’s right?” ― Jen Wang, Koko Be Good 
“Your opponent’s wrong doesn’t automatically make you right. Most fights aren’t about who’s right; they are contention over degrees of wrongness.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich 
“If I were surrounded by people who always approved of me, I wouldn’t need such a deep relationship with my own sense of right and wrong. And you know what that means? It means that other people’s approval is actually a hindrance, more than a helper, when it comes to self-discovery.” ― Vironika Tugaleva 
“No such thing as the right time, situation or place. You have all it takes. Just dig within. Exhume all the greatness inside of you and transform the world with an inexhaustible drive and without fear of limitations.” ― Chinonye J. Chidolue
“If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right.” ― Jules Renard
“What one thinks is right is not always the same as what others think is right; no one can be always right.” ― Roy T. Bennett
“It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier.” ― Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope
“It’s a strange truth that no matter how persuaded we might be of our own correctness, the discomfiting realization that others disagree with us causes a paralyzing inability to argue the case convincingly.” ― Brittney Ryan, The Legend of Holly Claus
“You had to become master over yourself, master of your own good qualities. Formerly they were your masters: but they should be merely your tools along with other tools. You had to acquire power over your aye and no and learn to hold and withhold them in accordance with your higher aims… You had to find out the inevitable error in every Yes and in every No, error as inseparable from life, life itself as conditioned by the perspective and its inaccuracy. Above all, you had to see with your own eyes where the error is always greatest: there, namely, where life is littlest, narrowest, meanest, least developed and yet cannot help looking upon itself as the goal and standard of things, and smugly and ignobly and incessantly tearing to tatters all that is highest and greatest and richest, and putting the shreds into the form of questions from the standpoint of its own well being.” – Friedrich Nietzsche