17 May Respectful Dialogues: Starting with Family
As I watch and listen to opinions being thrown at each other, declaring their stances on presidential candidates or the newly-passed laws associated with gender identity and marriage, I feel a sense of uncertainty polluting the air of our society. I can’t help but wonder how many effective conversations are actually happening between individuals and within councils, which can diminish so much of the conflict we hear about today.
We are being told to be tolerant of each other and to accept the way others choose to live their lives. I see the truth in the whole “you do you” concept; however, this idea causes me to recall a brief statement Dr. Jonathan Sandberg, a very wise professor of mine, once emphasized that touched me deeply:
“We don’t need tolerance. We need respectful dialogue.”
I have since experienced the benefits of living this principle he illustrated as I have witnessed walls come down, unveiling the hearts behind them that have longed to be understood.
In his message for the 50th World Communications Day in January of this year, Pope Francis profoundly defined what it means to communicate with mercy:
“In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.”
In addition to cultivating the world communication that the Pope speaks of, I believe it is also important that this same principle is mastered within our very own families. Can we imagine what this world would be if parents listened to their children who desperately need to be heard? As families take the time to work out their problems together regularly, they can learn to understand and love one another.
A few months after the Pope’s address, another religious leader, Elder M. Russell Ballard, shared his thoughts on this concept of having effective communication frequently in our families, calling it a Family Council:
“Please remember that a family council held regularly will help us spot family problems early and nip them in the bud; councils will give each family member a feeling of worth and importance; and most of all they will assist us to be more successful and happy in our precious relationships, within the walls of our homes.”
Perhaps most have heard of this idea, but this was a new concept for me! I have met families who already do this each week as an established routine, and I have found that each family who makes sure this council happens regularly in their families seem to have their ducks in a row and they truly have a more harmonious home. They can attest that although it is not always an easy or convenient practice to carry out, they have seen how having family council has protected and nurtured their precious family relationships.