One semester, I took a class all about different communication theories. We studied popular theories like GroupThink, Cognitive Dissonance, Agenda Setting, and Confirmation Bias, just to name a few. But in addition, each student had to pick a lesser known theory to study throughout the semester, spending time writing a term paper and presenting a final project. There were many theories that piqued my interest, but I ended up settling on the Theory of Dual Perspective.
Essentially, what the Theory of Dual Perspective states is that we will be able to more effectively communicate with someone if we are able to see things from their perspective. If we can understand where they are coming from. If we can, as the old adage says, learn what its like to walk a mile in their shoes. We don’t only hold our own perspective; we enter in and do the work to understand someone else’s, too. We hold two perspectives at once. And while my term paper concluded that adopting this theory would certainly be beneficial for an organization, I’ve found it to be incredibly powerful in my own life, too.
Because the more I studied it, the more I realized how central dual perspective is to my faith. In the communication world, dual perspective might be a studied theory. But for Jesus, it was a practice in love. I mean, think about it. We believe that through the incarnation, Jesus literally came and walked in humanity’s shoes. He experienced what it’s like to feel what we feel and to see things the way we see them. He understood why we hurt, what brings us joy, what causes us to fear, and how we find peace. He was named God With Us and he lived up to his name. In the context of communication, dual perspective helps us effectively communicate. But in the context of our faith, dual perspective helps us love the way we’re called to.
As simple and basic as it might seem on paper, I’ve found that dual perspective can be quite difficult to actually put into practice. But if dual perspective is something Jesus practiced, then it is something I am called to as a follower of Jesus, too. Even if my efforts seem small or insignificant. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it takes time and energy and resources. Even if it means I might discover I haven’t always gotten it right.
It’s a practice that takes practice. We don’t achieve a dual perspective overnight. It takes time, and intention, and humility. I’ve tried to take it to heart in my own life and in my own relationships as best I can. But as much as I’d like to think I have a handle on dual perspective, I’ve finally realized I haven’t been using it as well as I could, or should, in order to love my neighbor. Particularly, my neighbors of color.
There is unbelievably deep hurt and anguish within the Black community right now, as there has been for far too long. And for reasons I’m still trying to dig up and name, I haven’t truly sought to practice dual perspective and understand their experiences or their perspectives. At the end of the day, I’ve been too caught up in my own. And for that, I am sorry. When it comes to racism, I know I’ve fallen short. Maybe not blatantly or directly, but I’ve certainly contributed by, at the very least, benefitting from the current system. Sure, maybe I’ve been kind or welcoming. But I know I can do better. Because I’m realizing I’m called to more.
In Philippians 2:1-5, Paul writes the following
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
As followers of Jesus, our call is to have the same mind and love as Jesus. We do this by regarding others as better than ourselves. By thinking of their interests instead of our own. By choosing each and every day to put on humility and see beyond our own personal narratives. And I have to admit, I don’t always do this.
Like dual perspective, it might seem simple and basic on paper, but it is a difficult and daunting call. It requires sacrifice, hard conversation, time, energy, and commitment to the long game. I want so badly to say and do the right thing the right way. To live by Micah 6:8 by doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly with God the right way. And if you feel the same overwhelm I’ve been wrestling with, well, I think that makes sense. We’re dealing with a deeply rooted problem, one that doesn’t have an easy or comfortable fix. But I’m trying to remember that nothing worthwhile grows better or stronger without growing pains.
If we want to confront the problem authentically, maybe we can start with dual perspective. With listening and learning. With compassion and humility. Trying to walk in someone else’s shoes. And as we do, may we remember
That we are so loved, and we are called to be reminders of that love by standing with those who suffer and lament.
That a problem might not directly affect us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.
That while we are called to act, prayer is still powerful and necessary.
That there is grace in this, too. We might not always get it right, but grace abounds.
That learning to see the prejudice in our own hearts is an important step, not so we can wallow in guilt, but so we can be inspired to change. After all, repentance and forgiveness and redemption are key tenets of our faith.
Today, remember, this is a practice that takes practice and it’s okay to be a beginner. Sometimes it takes time to break in a new pair of shoes. The call is to simply begin.