Seeking to Understand - May 20, 2021

If we can focus on finding the truth then we can look at opposing points of view – not as threats – but as opportunities to test our theories and make any necessary modifications along the way that help us find the truth.

Posted
May 23, 2021
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Seeking to Understand - May 20, 2021

If we can focus on finding the truth then we can look at opposing points of view – not as threats – but as opportunities to test our theories and make any necessary modifications along the way that help us find the truth.

Posted
May 23, 2021

"Diversity: the art of thinking independently together." -Malcolm Forbes

JFS Friends,

One of my favorite memories of graduate school is my friendship with a classmate – she and I rarely agreed on anything to do with the practice of social work and would have long debates late into the night about social work theory, practice and philosophy.

Scientist Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, advises us that:

“One must dig deeply into opposing points of view in order to know whether your own position remains defensible.”

I know that this was certainly true for me – debating my beliefs with someone that I respected and admired helped me to hone my understanding of my own thoughts and beliefs but it also made me reexamine my opposition to differing viewpoints and discover areas where we agreed on certain facts, ideas or principles. In the end, I don’t think either of us significantly changed our commitment to our core values but I do believe we both emerged, stronger, more well-rounded and better clinicians from the benefit of a rigorous examination of our beliefs within the context of a safe, respectful and nonjudgmental friendship.

Writer William Penn reminds us that:

“In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.”

If we can focus on finding the truth then we can look at opposing points of view – not as threats – but as opportunities to test our theories and make any necessary modifications along the way that help us find the truth.

I think that it is also important to remember as philosopher Joseph Joubert says:

“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”

There is value in asking questions, especially those where the answer is unclear. In that case, it is even more important to take into account multiple points of view to broaden our understanding. Whether or not we come to any new conclusions or discoveries right away, questions are a powerful tool to lead us in the right direction.

“Every argument that is for the sake of heaven's name, it is destined to endure. But if it is not for the sake of heaven's name -- it is not destined to endure.”

I think that here the Rabbis are reminding us that if we approach an argument with mutual respect and understanding and the goal of our disagreement is to arrive at the truth and to serve a higher purpose that these arguments are destined to be preserved for their value in elucidating an idea, a truth, a new understanding.

Whether it is at work, at home with our families and friends, or in our approach to news of our country and the world around us – listening with the intent to understand helps us stay open to new facts and viewpoints that can enrich our understanding of complex issues and perhaps lead us to find new ways forward to tackle the challenges we face.

Take care,

Carl Josehart's signature

Carl E. Josehart, MSW (he/him/his)

Chief Operating Officer

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