In my Christmas letter, I made the point that we should value a person’s false beliefs in much the same way I appreciate the scribbled art my kids offer to me.
I am not saying that false ideas are beautiful or intrinsically valuable when abstracted from their owner. Surely not. The woman’s claim that her aunt would still be alive if she had had an abortion is likely false, and that particular falsehood has compounded this woman’s grief. So, I’m not suggesting that we ignore the falsehood that needs correcting. But we can place the correcting of it later in the conversation. A more pressing duty is before us, and we must attend to it first.
I said in the letter that when my son hands me his scribbles, I thank him with my attention and appreciation “because of his value, and the value of his giving of the gift.”
In the same way, when a pro-choice advocate (or anyone who disagrees with me about anything, for that matter) shares thoughts with me, she is offering me a gift. But if I see her thoughts only as impediments to the truth, I will set them aside. I will miss the person in my pursuit of a convert.
So, in my view, the false beliefs are not intrinsically valuable, but the great intrinsic value of their owner causes me to respond to the false beliefs a bit differently. At minimum, I pause…and respond as if I am in the presence of the creation of which God is most proud – a human being!
Note: I can’t help myself but make a comment about the drawing in the photo above, which I’ve included in my Christmas letter and this post as an example of my son’s “scribbles” and a sort of metaphor for the offering of false beliefs in a conversation. This particular drawing is not quite the best example to make the point, though, since it is actually a drawing of the Mayflower, a pretty amazing drawing for his age. I thought it was a “worthless” scribble until he told me what he was doing, and then I could see how he was making a pretty good rendition of a picture he had seen in a book on the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. (There’s another helpful point to be made from that part of the metaphor, too. How many thoughts that are shared with us do we discard as worthless before we take the time to understand what the owner of the thoughts is trying to communicate? Perhaps some of the “false beliefs” we bristle against so quickly are only hasty, false interpretations.)
So, we can debate whether or not the drawing above has intrinsic value (I am going to tend towards the affirmative side of that debate, I suppose), and we might even debate whether or not most preschool scribbles are actually intricate renditions of the pictures in the minds of the very young (I am again probably going to tend towards the affirmative side of that debate too), but the point about scribbles and false beliefs still stands. If the picture above isn’t that helpful for the point, just sit down and take some markers and randomly flop them all over the paper and hand your scribbles to someone else as a gift. You’ll make the point for me quite nicely:)
Recent Posts in this Series:
A Tale of Two Gifts (Christmas Letter + Extras)
My “Don’t Be Like Me” Story(s) – Lest We Get Cocky
What Adam Was Doing Right
When You Fall Off Your High Horse, Don’t Get Off the Horse Altogether
On Scribbles and False Ideas: Are They Beautiful? (this post)