Thanks for joining the 10-week ProGrace Experience! We’ve been on a 10-year journey of developing a new way to think and talk about the abortion issue. We look forward to sharing some of that journey with you these next few months!
One of the first lessons I learned in counseling was to speak in terms of how something made me feel. For example, instead of saying to my husband, “You’re a jerk!” I had to say, “When you said that, I felt hurt.”
As you can imagine, the second comment leads to much more productive conversation. If I tell my husband he is a jerk, he feels he needs to defend himself from that accusation against his character. All true conversation stops and we just escalate into back and forth defensiveness, only concerned with maintaining our status as “right.”
But if I say I’m hurt, he is much more likely to empathize with my feelings and want to hear more. He may still believe that what he did was right, but at least he can be sorry that I felt hurt. We can have a conversation and try to understand where the other person is coming from without fear of being attacked.
During our ProGrace workshops, we look at images of the back and forth that exists in our culture between the pro-life and pro-choice political expressions. One of the observations most people make is that both sides are just yelling at each other. No one is actually listening or trying to have a conversation. In essence, they are just shouting “You’re a jerk!” without trying to foster a dialogue that would lead to understanding.
Because of that, one of the first steps on the ProGrace journey is to listen to people who view this issue differently than us. And in order to do that, we have to be bold enough to ask for their opinion – and not try to defend our position.
So, if you’re up for it, commit to initiating a conversation about abortion this week, with someone you are pretty sure doesn’t share your views on the subject. I know we don’t have this conversation very often in our culture, so it may feel a bit awkward. But in my experience, people respond very well when it’s clear you just want to listen to them, not get into a debate about the topic.
Here are some questions you can use as a guideline, if you don’t know where to start:
- “What do you think about the way Christians have addressed unplanned pregnancy and abortion?”
- “How have our actions/words impacted you?”
- “What does that communicate to you?” or “How does that make you feel?”
I started having conversations like these 10 years ago, and here are some of the things I heard:
- “Christians only seem to care about the child right up until the time of birth. I don’t see you doing anything to help the mother or child after that time. It’s like you’re more pro-birth than pro-life.”
- “When Christians talk to women about abortion, you sometimes use emotional manipulation – and even misinformation – to try and talk her out of it. You don’t respect the journey she’s been on, or will be on if she has this child.”
- “The people who were most judgmental of me when I got pregnant were Christians. About half the people in the church got angry that my parents wanted to throw a baby shower for me. But I could have had an abortion, and no one would even have known I was pregnant…”
To all these answers and more, I just listened. And felt convicted for some of my own thoughts and actions. And I apologized. Because so much of what I heard didn’t sound like the way Jesus would have responded if he were here. I didn’t have to change my views on the morality of abortion to be able to empathize with how hurt some people felt as they interacted with Christians around this subject.
I’m praying for you as you enter into these conversations. That as you hear what people think and how they feel, you would also be listening to the still small voice of the Spirit, asking him to open your heart.