Yesterday in one of my classes we discussed a short story that we read about a family in which each individual had the emotional maturity of a three year old. We talked about how in many families, the person with the most power is the one who is thought of to be in the most pain. This totally makes sense to me, though there are certainly exceptions. The vulnerable get the most attention. **This is not a sob story of middle child syndrome** I have a point. So when people want others to see them as in a lot of pain, they tend to get very defensive. "I'm not perfect, but..." However, the last thing this person wants to hear now is about their imperfections. My professor gave us an example with her own children. She said that sometimes when her kid would come up to her accusing another child of doing something, she would tell the child to stop and tell her the whole story without making the other child the subject of a sentence. Instead they would have to focus on "I." The last time the Israelis and the Palestinians had a successful peace talk it was because they were not allowed to talk about past harms the other had done to them. They started with a clean plate and had to try to understand the other.
My professor also explained this exercise she would try when she was teaching high school. She chose a subject that all of the students would be on one side of, and then she made them argue for the other side. The trick was that they had to argue like the other side was an intelligent person with morals. In other words, they had to argue like if someone who really would argue that side had heard them, they would have no complaints. This seems to simple and essential for learning, but I feel that it is rarely done. The problem that one of her students pointed out was "well what if I argue for the other side and then I realize that I am wrong." Oh no! What a horrible thing learning is. We still have our agency, we will not be tricked into changing our minds just because we think how another person would think. If we disagree, then we have made our beliefs stronger, if we agree, then we have learned a great deal.
Sometimes people are scared to learn about other religions in depth or philosophy or politics or anything important, but if you really believe that something is true, why would you be scared to think for a minute from another perspective? Perhaps you are really insecure about your own beliefs.