When I was in college, I had a Theology teacher that once told me, “The truth lies in the tension between two extremes.”
This was a quote that has stuck with me since I heard it 9 years ago. Since then, I’ve shared it with plenty others.
At times, I’ve been a person of extremes myself. An all or nothing type of person. I’ve just been built that way. I find a hobby, I dive in 1000%. I did this with sports, music and any other thing that interested me.
When I was 15, my Mother was about to remarry. Because of this, I would be switching high schools. Leaving all my friends behind (It sounds trivial now, but when you’re a teenager, your social life is the most important thing in your world). I had a friend who was a Pastor’s daughter and invited me to her church’s Youth Group regularly. I wasn’t raised in religion, although, unsure why, I’ve always had a belief that there was a God out there. I always turned her down. Not interested in getting deep into religion that early in life. But when it was time to move away and separate myself from my friends, I finally said yes. This would allow me to still see my friends that I knew I would come to miss.
I went to that Youth Group and something happened. I felt like the Pastor might as well have said, “Dominique” in front of everything he talked about. I was in. And I was going to give it 1000%.
The thing that my 15 year old brain didn’t understand yet about religion and its relationship with the world was that everything in the bible is contextual. Some things were even written in code, like the book of Revelation. There are so any things, that if we took literally, we would all be walking around maimed from chopping off some part after sinning. Either way, I was determined to tell everybody about my new found obsession and somehow convince them that it was right for them as well.
It was all I talked about. I read my bible and prayed constantly. To the point where one of my closest friends approached me at school one day and said, “Dominique, I am not like you and I will never be like you. I can’t talk to you anymore because all you talk about is your religion.” That moment hurt. I can still feel the sting. But still, I trekked onward. Around that same time, even my new Step-Father asked me, in front of all of my new siblings, “Don’t you think you’re taking this God-thing a little too far?” I simply replied, “How far is too far for God?” Yeah. I was that person.
I lived in that place for a long time. 1000%. In the extreme. Unrelenting when it came to anything that opposed my belief system. Over time it turned into a place of judgement.
The problem with that, though, I was not a judge. Or even The Judge for that matter.
It wasn’t until years later, where I had a few moments of falling flat on my face, where I learned what true grace was. The grace my own Jesus had told me to have with others. I didn’t even know what it really was until I needed it for myself.
I learned that there is no perfection. But there are a lot of people who need somebody to reach their hand out when they stumbled and disappointed everyone else around them including themselves. It wasn’t until I was in that season myself, and heard that quote, “The truth lies in the tension between two extremes.” that it actually made sense.
Balance is necessary. Even in something like religion.
Being extreme often comes at the cost of something else. When I was a soccer player in high school, if I only focused on being the absolute best runner, I wouldn’t be strong at kicking or defense. If I can’t kick the ball straight into my target it doesn’t matter how fast I can run.
When we obsess over one area, we lose focus on other things that are not just relevant in our lives, but necessary. Balance is necessary.
I have a tattoo to remind me of this (Actually, most of my tattoos are some sort of reminder. If you know me, you know I have a terrible memory). For me, the quote was particularly relevant when it comes to grace and truth.
If truth is found in the middle, between two extremes, that would mean that my truth might be different from another persons truth. Mostly because each of our narratives are different. Even if we experienced the same life events together.
You see, that’s because my perspective is MY truth. And somebody else’s perspective is THEIR truth. And often times, they may not match.
My step-dad has 9 sisters. They all remember their parents VERY differently. They each have their own perspective. Their own truth. And they are also a very stubborn bunch who will not concede or conform to the perspective of others. Their reality is their truth. Even though they lived many of the same moments.
The difficult place to arrive at is a place of respecting another’s truth. Regardless of whether it lines up with our own. My brother and I lived the same scenarios within our upbringing. I’m certain our stories would sound very different. Either way, both are true. It’s how we now perceive those moments, even though we experienced them together in real life. And so neither of us should attempt to downplay the other’s.
We need this.
This place of respecting differing perspectives. They challenge us. They stretch us. They teach us to love in spite of personal opinion and bias. Taking time to listen, and hear out the story of others different from ourselves and exercising empathy gets us farther along as a human race.
This is love.
Not hatred. Not condemnation. Not slandering. These are the results of extremes.
Seeking understanding beyond our own; that is love. Knowing that it is necessary to move forward and grow.
So next time you find yourself sharply in disagreement with another, challenge yourself to understand them more. Have grace.
Their truth might look different than yours. Search for it somewhere in the middle.