I was talking with someone the other day about training I was attending the following day for Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). After mentioning the title of it, she instantly seemed to discount it with a flippant remark of “I hope whoever is teaching it has kids.” I instantly got defensive, as I do not have children yet my profession is working predominantly with children and parents by facilitating and promoting healthy parenting skills. I told her that hers was an ignorant perspective. Now I could go off for quite some time about this perspective because I face it quite often. By experience, I have met too many parents who were really bad at parenting to believe that it is a magical and inherent trait that comes naturally through childbirth. I do believe that the experience of the role of parent will carry lessons that will augment my therapy and further my empathy for the stresses that it carries. In truth, I was offended and spoke out of turn; and I will rest in the reality that I have been able to help many parents with troubled kids who desperately needed my assistance.
What interests me about this interchange is the measure of arrogance that comes from our rigid perspectives. I am right and they are wrong. Not only personally and professionally does this pride seem to creep into our lives, but also in our spiritual and theological perspectives. This discussion often leads to a digression into the abyss of relativism. My intention is to avoid that error. I do not purpose that absolute Truth does not exist; but rather that our grasp on it is tenuous. The nuances of a fallen creation reach out of our past and muddle our perspectives leaving us insecure and defensive. We tense at the first signs of challenge to our worldview. “How could they be a democrat! That is unChrisitian!”; “How could someone believe in Calvinism!”; or “Parenting is a skill set; stop embracing that ignorant perspective!” These come from a place of fear and insecurity; as though someone else’s non-adherence to our perspective somehow challenges our very identity.
I think that this is the key—identity. Fallibility is a difficult and unstable reality that causes us to build up our defenses with the paper mache coverings of truth (note the lower case t). We do this to protect the “truth” or reality that we create to feel secure. I really enjoy Volf’s take on this “truth” in his work Exclusion and Embrace. For Volf, truth in light of “pervasive non-innocence” is an impossible task. Neither the offended nor the offender can see from the perspective of Truth (note the big T). God alone has this perspective. If we are called to seek after Truth, then are we charged with an impossible task? In this life, I think yes. Our faith is our abiding in Christ. We hope. We must let our false coverings fall to the floor to embrace the reality of our limitations. The arrogance that we hold, to ensure the safety of our false realities, only serves to sever the relationships that we hold dear.