Friday, July 18, 2014

THE AMBIANCE OF AMBIVALENCE [THE READING OF MANY BLOGS]

Ambivalence----“Simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from a person, object, or action.”

Ambiance----"A pervading atmosphere."

I read where John MacArthur once said were he able to parent his children over again he would put a major emphasis on helping them embrace a need for ambivalence. As seen above in the definition from Webster’s New American Dictionary, one would see that a good dose of understanding about ambivalence is needed for the living of life in general and dealing with some people specifically.

For example, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about autobiographies. A life story undoubtedly has, it seems to me, the exaggeration part of it [which one can only hope would not be out and out lies] buried somewhere in the telling of the tale. How could any of us be the hero of our life story if all we told were the truth? [The point of biographies is to present the main character as something of a hero is it not?] So we shade an incident here, invent a rationale there, leave out a telling detail that changes everything were we to factually state it all.

As someone I read correctly said, I believe, "Is there anything less reliable than a memoir? Eichmann was following orders. Clinton did nothing wrong. Our life story written by us is our greatest fiction so we learn to take memoirs with a bucket of salt.”

While that statement may be a little over the top and, perhaps, smacks of cynicism, I have to confess, my ambivalence about it all causes me to be drawn to the grain of truth of the heroic in it while, at the same time, being attracted to the inside scoop a person gives about some of the shady type of things in that life. I really am ambivalent about autobiographies as you can see. It is that kind of ambivalence that is the pervading atmosphere of my mind and heart when I read many of the blogs on line, especially the comment sections.

No one appreciates the biblical materials more than I do. I’ve spent my life studying them, developing my understanding of them, systematizing them for the instruction of others, proclaiming them, and even defending them. I believe doctrine is terribly important.

I’m drawn to people also. In fact, if I understand things correctly, it is ONLY His Eternal Word and people from this earth that will grace us with a presence in heaven. Nothing else__that is here__will be there. Again, if I understand things correctly, my relationships with people IS the treasure I am to lay up in heaven. The sadness I see in the story of the Rich Fool who had barns and bunches of crops, is that NOTHING is said about his marriage, children, co-workers, or friendships. How poor he really was because people were NOT as important as anything else. You can see__I’m drawn to the Truth of Scripture and people__even those who write blogs defending that truth.

It is exactly at this point that ambivalence must be learned in my life. How bloggers can defend the “Truth” and at the same time often display, it seems to me at least, a total disregard for the feelings of those who will read their blog posts and write as if anyone who disagrees or questions what they have written is an idiot__or worse__is a mystery.

I’m usually drawn, as I said, to one side or other of those doctrinal issues being debated in blogdom whether it is concerning Calvinism’s TULIP or the Free-will of others, women preachers, or praying in tongues, whether baptism can be performed by any christian or only an authorized minister or representative and a myriad of other issues that are being debated via the internet. Yet, while drawn to one side or other on any issue, I have to confess to being just as repulsed at the attitude often exhibited toward people as seen in the comment sections of blogs by advocates on both sides of those issues.

I’ve seen on some blogs and comment sections written words by Christians that display anger, resentment, harshness, or maybe just simply personalities void of any tenderness, and certainly a display of a total lack of training in personal relationships. Then again, and I'm hoping it isn't, maybe it is just a lack of conscience in relating to people in genuine love and respect, all the while appearing to admire their own stand for the “Truth.”

The fact that the “Truth” is another name for a Person, and that this Person is by His example the heart and soul of our relating to other people, seems to be lost on some writing or commenting on some blogs. Whatever the driving force behind their disregard for people, I find that dubious sense of unsettledness [ambivalence] playing out in the recesses of my own being when I read their blogs and especially the comment sections.

So, I wind up battling my own demons of wanting to judge, correct, fix, confront those very people whose blogs I’m drawn to and would do so except I check my own motives. There I find another mixed bag. So I’m back to being ambivalent__about myself. So I sit down to think about it all__and write__and a post pops out about this need for ambivalence in life, for what it’s worth.

Maybe MacArthur was on to something. Maybe it will take the BEMA, where all hidden motives and purposes are brought to light and where the ability to love someone, and yet be repulsed by that same someone, will be brought into correct eternal balance. Maybe until then I’ll just have to learn to live with__ambivalence__loving people where they are__wherever that is. Even those people who write and comment on blogs.

Paul B.

9 comments:

Steve Miller said...

You know Paul I have always appreciated your insights because I have had the pleasure to have the time to get to know you. Therefore, when I read your blogs and your response to comments I am very confident in knowing that they will be seasoned with grace (Col. 4:5-6) If one starts with that mindset the tone is so much more appealing even if it is a disagreeing one. If the BEMA is going to be a demonstration of itemized grace by the Savior then why shouldn't it start now in our relationships on earth. I do wish we could converse more in person though but I will settle for grace giving blogs on your part.

Steve

Tom Ross said...

Effective communication requires that the people communicating are also in a learning mode so that they can make adjustments to their input during the process. Verbal, faced to face communication has the fastest feedback loop in that all of the feedback loops are available to the people within the verbal face to face communication hub. With that being said, a one on one communication hub is easier to respond to than a multi channel one on many hub. With a one on many hub the communicator may have information feedback overload and his communication skill may begin to fall away because he is not able to effectively respond with all the people within the multi channel one on many hub. We can see this breakdown when the people begin to start one on one hubs while still keeping a weathered eye/ear open for the one on many hub.

The complexity increases when you remove even one of the feedback loops available. An example of this is a phone conversation where the verbal feedback is not available and we cannot "see" what the person on the other end of the phone line is really saying. I have watched a person speaking really angrily on a phone call while at the same time winking appropriately at me to tell me that he is just acting to show his disapproval of the person on the other end of the phone line. The working feedback loops are still in real time but the measure of truthful communication has slipped a tad.

Written communication slows down the feedback loops even more. Using messaging has a faster feedback loop than emails while blogs offers some forms of feedback or venting on the part of the readership. Books on the other hand have little chance a providing an effective feedback loop that will instantly improve the communication process of the writer.

Other impediments to good communications are peoples' biases, their emotional status at the time, their knowledge base, i.e. their meta data reference source, and their needs.

Maybe, I have become too complex in this communication response to the initial blog.

It is far more effective to "talk" with a person, i.e. learning required, when communicating than "talking" at a person i.e. no learning required. Sadly many "Christians" skills are lacking and they tend to talk at a person rather than talk with the person and as such they frighten people off and there is a resulting barrier put in place for other "Christians" to communicate the "Good News" of Christ.

Allowing people processing time is important. We all need time to be able to consider what we hear and see and feel and a slower, timely communication model often works best.

I trust that I have not done just that with this response.

Tom Ross said...

Effective communication requires that the people communicating are also in a learning mode so that they can make adjustments to their input during the process. Verbal, faced to face communication has the fastest feedback loop in that all of the feedback loops are available to the people within the verbal face to face communication hub. With that being said, a one on one communication hub is easier to respond to than a multi channel one on many hub. With a one on many hub the communicator may have information feedback overload and his communication skill may begin to fall away because he is not able to effectively respond with all the people within the multi channel one on many hub. We can see this breakdown when the people begin to start one on one hubs while still keeping a weathered eye/ear open for the one on many hub.

The complexity increases when you remove even one of the feedback loops available. An example of this is a phone conversation where the visual feedback is not available and we cannot "see" what the person on the other end of the phone line is really saying. I have watched a person speaking really angrily on a phone call while at the same time winking appropriately at me to tell me that he is just acting to show his disapproval of the person on the other end of the phone line. The working feedback loops are still in real time but the measure of truthful communication has slipped a tad.

Written communication slows down the feedback loops even more. Using messaging has a faster feedback loop than emails while blogs offers some forms of feedback or venting on the part of the readership. Books on the other hand have little chance a providing an effective feedback loop that will instantly improve the communication process of the writer.

Other impediments to good communications are peoples' biases, their emotional status at the time, their knowledge base, i.e. their meta data reference source, and their needs.

Maybe, I have become too complex in this communication response to the initial blog.

It is far more effective to "talk" with a person, i.e. learning required, when communicating than "talking" at a person i.e. no learning required. Sadly many "Christians" skills are lacking and they tend to talk at a person rather than talk with the person and as such they frighten people off and there is a resulting barrier put in place for other "Christians" to communicate the "Good News" of Christ.

Allowing people processing time is important. We all need time to be able to consider what we hear and see and feel and a slower, timely communication model often works best.

I trust that I have been able to communicate effectively with this response/comment.

P.S.
Proofreading is also an impediment for good communication. I trust that I have corrected enough of my mistakes in my previous response to improve my communication with you and the other readers of this blog.

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

Your comments are always a testimony to grace, that's for sure. Thank you for this one with its kind words.


Tom,

I hear what you're saying and couldn't agree more. I especially agree with your concept of "feedback loops." They, or the lack thereof, certainly make a difference in REAL communication. I also like what I heard someone say one time, "Real communication isn't so much what you say, but what others are hearing your say." It takes the best of feedback loops for real communication to be experienced.

All that said, however, I think I'm also addressing something that isn't so much a part of the logic of the process of communication as it is the spirit of it. It's almost a nuanced thing. Maybe an atmosphere, thus the use of the word "ambiance."

It's what was intended when scripture says, "Behold, how they love one another." Nothing is said about what was done or said. But there was just something to behold.

I may be making something out of nothing, but it's significant to me at this time in my life, for sure.

Thanks for writing, my friend.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Unfortunately I don't have the great privilege of personally knowing you, as Steve does, but I appreciate the insights your blog gives of the fellow sitting behind the keyboard, which draw me to continue to read.

When I became more conversant with blogdom, I began to realize, even more than personal experience had taught me, the prickly, combative nature of some who call themselves Christian, and the inability some have to reflect the grace of the One they call Master.

On the other hand, your blog draws me to read, because I truly appreciate what I have come to understand, and trust that what I read is a reflection of that fellow behind the keyboard; a member of the human race, who has a realistically clear view of himself as a child of Adam,who is stained by that heritage, but at the same time a recipient of amazing grace and new life, which is clearly evident.

I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion:"Maybe until then I’ll just have to learn to live with__ambivalence__loving people where they are__wherever that is. Even those people who write and comment on blogs".











Paul Burleson said...

Aussie j,

I'm aware of the fact that one cannot really be acquainted with anyone they've never met personally, but I have to say that YOU, my friend, may be a rare exception to that for me.

Someone asked me the other day, "Is there someplace you'd like to go you've never been or seen?" My answer was Australia. When asked why? My answer was, "To see my friend, John."

If not Australia, you know where, right!

Tom Ross said...

Paul, "ambivalence" is part of the "information process" generated/necessary to assist in the process of communicating. It is there when people talk with each other but often missing when we talk at others.

What I presented in my post above was a thumbnail summary of the processes going on in communication. I could have written many pages on the subject matter and touched on many aspects of what makes good and bad communication skills.

When I was at Bible School doing a missions course I was being taught to talk at others and sadly not taught to talk with others. The importance was only to get the "Christian" message out there and connections with people was not considered important. It was a case of being "programmed" badly by the course I was doing.

Ambivalence sadly was not considered necessary to pass.

Shalom

Paul Burleson said...

Tom,

I'm not sure I would agree if you're saying you talked at instead of talked with in your comment.

But this..

"When I was at Bible School doing a missions course I was being taught to talk at others and sadly not taught to talk with others. The importance was only to get the "Christian" message out there and connections with people was not considered important. It was a case of being "programmed" badly by the course I was doing."...

...is one of the clearest statements about the major present day problem [Talking at instead of talking with] that I see in much of the preaching and teaching being done in our convention today.

Sadly, I was taught this as well in my early training.

Tom Ross said...

Paul, this issue is not limited to the SBC but is a worldwide problem. I live in a rather flat country that you have expressed an interest in visiting, should it be possible, where the dividing "ridge" between water catchments is often only defined by a signpost advertising the approximate line between the two. It is a land largely unpopulated where religious cultic fundamentalism is just as rife as in your country and the issues of being talk at rather than being talked with is the norm.

If you dare to disagree with the being talked at material then you are pushed out into the outer darkness such that your "light" does not expose the expressed evils dearly held by the "gifted" exponents of the cherished enlightenment.

To my mind, ambivalence is demonstrated by revealing a Hebraic heart rather than a Hellenistic heart understanding of what relationship with the Father is all about.

Challenging the traditions of people's belief systems is paramount to heresy and grounds for excommunication from the elite group of the protectors of God's truth.

Our biggest challenge is to actually be prepared to change and to be released into that new way of living.

Shalom

Tom Ross