Recently I heard from someone who trains lawyers in how to evaluate potential jurors that a key question for attorneys to ask prospective jurors is “Do you have any bumper stickers on your car?” If the individual answers in the affirmative, then according to this procedure, that is reason enough to reject that individual as a juror. The presumption is that such an individual is not amenable to having his or her mind changed by reasonable arguments. At first, I found this curious and even amusing, but the more I reflected on it, the more I thought that it might make sense.
Certainly, during the last presidential election and the more recent Congressional elections, there were many bumper stickers that I found to be clever and pithy. Some evoked in me a feeling of self-righteousness, while others sent me into a complex of anger or disdain. Ludicrously, I found myself dismissing the driver as a fool, or praising them as an enlightened individual, depending on the phrase printed on a twelve-inch sticker on the back of their car.
We often, sometimes without even realizing it, become walking bumper stickers. We expose our opinions, our belief about what is right and condemn those around us for having a different opinion. When we do this, we risk shutting down dialogue with friends and neighbors. If these folks whom I love and respect hold opposing views to mine, perhaps neither one of us has a monopoly on the truth. More than likely the truth is somewhere in the middle.
The middle way does not mean some ineffective and safe middle ground. What the middle way requires of us is much more demanding. It asks us to live in the tension of the opposites. It urges us to move out of the security of absolute certainty and into the more turbulent seas of wondering what if — what if the truth I so passionately believe in is only partial? It invites me to move from either/or thinking into both/and thinking. The middle way is far too complex to fit on a twelve-inch bumper sticker, just as it also cannot be conveyed in a 30 second sound bite. The middle way requires listening to one another, especially when we might assume there is nothing we could possibly learn from the other.
So the next time I am sure that I am right, I think I’ll brew a pot of tea and invite someone to share both the tea and their point of view with me. It won’t be as quick as the few seconds it takes to read a bumper sticker, but it offers the opportunity for self-awareness and the potential for the right relationship.
If you’re interested in exploring the middle way, sign up for one of our unique programs at Seton Cove. We provide countless opportunities for you to develop a deeper spiritual understanding that will impact your leadership, creativity, and relationships. For more information, contact our office at 512-451-0272.