“Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path.”
- Proverbs 2:9
There’s an old joke about a big burley lumberjack and notorious bully who entered a bar declaring in his boisterous voice that every man on his right was a wimp and every man on his left was a sissy. “Hey!” objected one brave patron, “I’m not a wimp,” to which the brawny lumberjack responded by grabbing the poor guy and tossing him to the other side of the room. “Then get over there with the sissies,” he yelled.
Anyone who has ever served on a jury knows that the duty of jurors is to listen carefully to the testimony, then to thoughtfully deliberate the evidence before reaching a verdict, not jumping to conclusions until both parties have had a fair opportunity to present their arguments. In real life, though, we too often label others without a fair hearing. When someone expresses an opinion our tendency is to pigeonhole that person as being of one philosophical, political or religious persuasion or another.
Our reason for laughing at the lumberjack story is the absurdity of his labeling. The poor guy who challenged the bully was not asking to be reclassified as a sissy instead of a wimp. He was simply begging for a fair hearing.
Most of the issues of our time are so fraught with complexities that even the most researched conclusions still result in little more than conjecture. Thus in a complex debate a fair and careful observer may find valid points on both sides of an argument. That is why debatable issues are opportunities for learning and enrichment if carried out in an environment of civility and decorum, as courtrooms are designed to be.
Conflict is not something to be feared or avoided, nor should it be cause for division – or labeling as with the lumberjack – for we cannot expect everyone to agree on every issue. Rather, conflict is an opportunity to gain wisdom, to learn and to grow. When that happens, “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”