“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

Yes, the friction of two things, each against the other, can sharpen, but can also dull.  The abrasive quality of a whetstone can sharpen a knife, but if not properly used, it can also dull the knife’s edge.  Similarly, communication between two people with varying ideas and ideologies can sharpen each, but their communications can also “dull” each.

All this to say that in dialogue today we seem to have more dulling than sharpening going on.  We don’t have “dialogue” so much as “argument.”  The vision that often comes to mind these days when engaged in or watching others engage in conversation is that of two fighters in a ring who step into the middle and beat on each other, then retreat to their respective corners and glare across the ring at the other.  Thus, this from Joan Chittister’s Uncommon Gratitude is instructive and insightful:

“Being able to think differently from those around us and being able to function lovingly with people who think otherwise is the ultimate in human endeavor. It requires three things: a heart large enough to deal with conflict positively, enduringly, and kindly; a keen sense of personal purpose, the notion that there is something on the horizon that is worth debating; and a soul sensitive enough to transcend the tensions of the immediate for the sake of the quality of the future.

I like that, the thought that the meaningful sharing of ideas “is the ultimate in human endeavor.”  I like less the thought that to engage in that endeavor requires something of me – heart, purpose, and a sensitive soul.”  But then, it occurs to me that the outcome is worth the effort, or, as one of my mentors used to say, “the juice is worth the squeeze.”

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