Returning again to the discussion I had with a friend who runs a book discussion group.
We agreed that we had both learned a great deal because of the courage of one woman to not walk in lock-step with the others in the group and to share her true feelings.
She was not an attention-seeker or a trouble-maker; she had sincere beliefs that challenged the assumptions of the others in the group.
One of the opportunities we face as self-educators is to build a community of support to help us raise our families in a culture that supports the progression through the phases.
While we and our families are young, it is natural that we seek to attract others like ourselves to achieve this end.
And while this is ideal for some things (some seasons), it is limiting in other ways (other seasons).
This trend is not just for the religiously conservative.
Those among us who consider such worldviews to be intolerant or unexamined limit the exposure of their young ones to those who devoutly espouse them.
It is natural, and right, that parents shelter our vulnerable young ones in the way most appropriate to develop our core values.
Whatever our worldview, we all try to create the environment most likely to support and pass on our core values to our children.
Building Community, Building Rapport
But, as I said, this is most ideal for the early, formative years.
Another of the challenges we face as self-educators building a community is that (tending to attract others like ourselves) we are limited in our exposure to new ideas and limited by the lack of examination of our assumptions.
My husband and I, as well as our many wonderful colleagues, have tried to make the case that Leadership Education is for the development of statesman/stateswomen: individuals with virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage, who inspire greatness in other and move the cause of liberty.
But if our education is slim on the need for diplomacy or the opportunity to interact with good people who disagree with us, we are going to be gravely limited in our ability to “move the cause of liberty.”
While it is true that some personalities naturally build rapport better than others, the bare fact is that it is sym-pathy—“like-feeling”—that builds rapport.
When we understand others’ deep convictions, their motivations and aspirations, when we respect their experience and mourn their losses and trials, when we resonate with their noblest ambitions—then can we build the bridges of cooperation and friendship that will make the difference.
When we have paid the price to understand, then we have the moral authority to ask to be heard.
And interestingly—when we have paid the price to understand, very often our own message will have changed; we will have changed.
The Adult Phases of Learning
I made the case in a previous entry that we pass through the Phases in the study of language. I suggested there that this template of learning could likely be applied to other realms of learning. I will further that discussion here.
With the process of “Getting off the Conveyor Belt” (GotCB), we first approach the new principles in a Core Phase fashion.
As I said in the essay: just as while learning to read in a foreign language we benefit by reading aloud and repeating the master; when learning to walk, we have hands above us bearing our weight as we go through the motions; even so in GotCB, we first gravitate to the things that validate and strengthen our Core before we consider new things.
We then gain exposure to neutral ideas in an open, exploratory way (LofL).
Then, we investigate ideas that are “other” (Scholar), we seek to become part of the dialogue (Depth), and finally we apply our knowledge and gifts to the process of impacting the world (Mission, etc.).
Allow me to ask of pair of leading questions. What happens if, in our scholarly progress through the Phases, we try to put Depth-level mentor commitments in place before we have successfully experienced Love of Learning?
And, what happens if, in our interface with the world, we try to enter the Depth-plus level dialogue when we haven’t matured beyond our own Core Phase in the realm of ideas?
Let me answer these questions, though I think you might consider it belaboring the obvious: in the first case, we would make ourselves miserable, aggravate our mentor, and completely stall the process of our scholarly education in very short order.
In the second case, we would be outclassed by the sophistication of the discussion, we would make ourselves and our ideas ridiculous to those we would want to influence, we would feel criticized and defensive, and we would likely be offensive (even unknowingly—which further makes my point) in our arguments.
Out of context, out of sync
Does this sound familiar?
Have you ever listened to anyone who fits this description? Have you ever been someone who fits this description?
I know I have.
If so, you know from experience that the only people we impact with this approach are the ones who already agree with us.
Leading up to (and in the wake of ) the U.S. election, with campaigns for and against candidates and propositions throwing ideas around, every once in a while you could find some bastion of reason where the ideas were expressed with the gravity of one who respected those with whom he disagreed, was able to respond effectively to their concerns, and had serious sway on the discussion.
This is not only refreshingly rare, it is powerful.
I find it inspiring—even when the point of view expressed is not my own.
It makes me want to be something better, to be more.
It give me a vision of how I could be.
Part of the process of GotCB is having a vision of how, where, and what you want to be.
My mom used to say, “Make sure that where you’re running away to is better than where you ran away from.”
Hopefully we aren’t attracted to TJEd simply by what it isn’t. I trust we have a constructive goal that we are purposefully striving for.
And that “bastion of reason” I described above typifies part of what I am striving to become.
Not to be acclaimed or to be credible or to be respected.
But to truly be able to make a difference; to be worthy of the esteem of others who have paid a price to make their voices heard; to more fully use the gifts I have been given to share an opportunity for happiness with others; and to feel the brotherhood of spirit that I am convinced exists in the deepest sentiments of virtually every heart.
This is my hope.
I have no perfect view on the future of how my ideas will or will not change the world.
I have no concept of what friendships I will make and who will argue with my deepest held views.
When I speak of a vision of the future, my vision is quite specific on only one thing: my gifts magnified through sacrifice and grace, in preparation to respond to whatever opportunities present themselves.
If that means to be a strength to an adult child struggling in relationships, if that means being an entrepreneur, if that means publishing my thoughts on a blog, if that means consulting with queens and prime ministers—I haven’t the foggiest idea.
But I’m pretty clear on who I want to become.