One of the weakest links binding our society is the emerging strength of polarization. It seems to be affecting all institutions, especially political structures. The often cited comment is “My opinion is better than yours” indicating that voluntary deafness seems to be the new form of non-communication which often leads to polarization.
Why is this? Above all, credibility suffers when polarization becomes obvious. Where is the “truth” in all this posturing? It seems to me that truth has a better chance of surviving if there is true dialogue among those concerned. Dialogue is an attempted mode of communication between two entities. The dynamic is twofold: Speaking and Listening. “Listening” is more important than speaking because it prevents the dialogue from becoming a monologue. It means, above all, that one is willing to hear the context of the other. It also means that “listening” admits to merited guilt and accepts its consequences when harm is caused to another.
In today’s Gospel (Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matt. 18:15-20), we have an illustration of the options of “listening” but in the framework of the second meaning listed above. One tells another of a committed fault, and then is expected to” listen,” which means taking into account personal culpability. Accepting blame, when justified, is an approach toward the truth.
Note what happens. The options are based on the conditionality of the willingness to listen. If there is a “listening” (which means accepting guilt if necessary), then true dialogue can transpire. If there is a refusal to listen, even when others are brought in as witnessess, then the refusal results in polarization.
In encounters with others, are we willing to “listen” either by not prejudging others before having heard their contexts, nor by refusing to admit guilt and accept its consequences when necessary? A use of monologue instead of dialogue gives the impression that there is something to hide.
In the Gospel, the entire community would be affected by the choice of monologue or dialogue. In fact, the individual always lives in relationship to others. Therefore, is my relationship with the communities in which I live affected by monologue or dialogue? The reality is that “truth” can surface only through dialogue.