Found at PhotoBucket.
I’ve been playing a lot of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim lately. The game is set in a medieval world and the plot revolves around the reappearance of dragons after centuries without them. One of the dragon related items I found to be thought provoking is a line about a when a dragon breathes fire.
When a dragon uses a breath attack… it is speaking in an ancient and powerful language. A battle between two dragons is actually a deadly verbal debate.
I had always saw dragons growing up and fierce monsters who breath fire and are just heartless and evil. But this characterization found in Skyrim has the main character able to learn the language of the dragons, and at times hold conversations with them.
I began to think about this some more and had to wonder, how often are we like dragons, spewing fire at the people we argue with?
My mind immediately goes to the Westboro protests and the counter-protests against them. Christians who stand across from courthouses and abortion clinics and shout at the “evil” people on the other side. When a popular fundamentalist pastor makes a certain claim and all the Twitterverse and bloggers get to work about how wrong they are. In our world of entitlement, we often feel the first thing to do when we are wronged is retaliate. Sometimes such as in our current political climate nearing election, we don’t even wait, but just start laying out the ways our opponent has done wrong to make ourselves look better.
Instead of fighting, what if we sought to understand our criticizers view?
I offer two examples, one bad, the other good. The other night I was researching something for a project I’m working on. I found what I was looking for on a website and the information was laid out nicely. Then I decided to explore their site some more and found statements that I didn’t agree with. I immediately thought they were wrong and impossible to work with. I wanted to just be done with them and never think of that site again. But as I thought more of it the next day, I realized that the piece I needed was well explained and I agreed it. Sure, I might not agree with every stance they take, but they at least had something to offer me and that I could find helpful if I hadn’t discounted them right away. I went back to find what I originally came for, because it was helpful and it was common ground to move forward from.
The second example takes place while I was in college. There I was a painting major. I admit I wasn’t that good. In one class critique in particular, a classmate equated what I was doing to that of a kindergartener. The found nothing worthwhile in my paintings. It didn’t get to me. Partially because I think in the back of my mind I knew she was right. I didn’t get defensive, because her work was really well done. It was detailed and intricate. Mine was basically a simple cartoon on a canvas.
But I could have retaliated. Said her painting was too traditional. I was thinking outside the “painter” spectrum. But I knew I wasn’t. It was something I was doing, but not something I was good at. I was able to admit my shortcomings and listen to what she had to say. Others said they enjoyed my painting, while others agreed with her. It turned into a rather civil discussion on why art was or wasn’t good.
That critique is actually the point that I began to love debate and critique. I loved to hear the opposing side. I attended a church my first year of seminary that held a different set of beliefs than I held, because it helped me to know better what I believe. And though I disagreed with them at times, I found some community there in the short time I attended, and found them to be great people. So while opposing ideas might annoy me sometimes, I want to hear them. I just hope we can learn to keep the fire breathing to a minimum when faced with an opponent, and instead seek to hear the other side of the story first and know how our opponents feel when it comes to their beliefs. After all, they believe them just as strongly as we believe ours. Shouldn’t that at least be respected?