The world is black or white–or is it?

March 9, 2014

women-in-art-e1361521387187  It always brings me up short when I encounter people who see the world as black or white. The dividing line for them is sharply defined. Nothing in between.

Funny — these are often folks who would be shocked to be considered “judgmental” because on many issues they aren’t at all judgmental.  It’s situational. And they’re very quick to pronounce judgment in those circumstances.

I’ve been cursed with the ability to see shades of grey.  I’ve seen them all my life.  The positives and the negatives are are both equally clear to me in almost any situation.  Can you imagine how hard was to learn how to make decisions?

But it also colors how I view current events.

Let’s take this new Pope, because a lot’s been written about him.  He’s initiated reforms that by Church standards are HUGE. Here’s the operative term: “by Church standards.”  I think he deserves a boatload of credit. Still, I read pieces criticizing him for not going far enough. I want to rebut, “Seriously? You think he can immediately modernize a 2,000 year-old church with traditions so weighed down by custom and mindlessness they can hardly be lifted?”  I’m just thrilled to see him chipping away at some of the most important reforms. Like eliminating the corruption in the Vatican Bank. And bringing a more humane attitude toward social issues about which the Catholic Church has been tone deaf forever.

I’m not a Pope apologist, but I can see that the guy is like the captain of a huge ship trying to turn it in a new direction. It ain’t easy. And I appreciate that. Blessings on him, that’s what I say.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, not for people and not for institutions.  There are situations and extenuating situations.  The big picture is always there if we want to see it.  I’m surprised that more people don’t want to look.

Why do you think that is?


21 comments on “The world is black or white–or is it?
  1. Aditi says:

    Completely agree that you can’t change a society, it’s outlook in a matter of days, it takes time…patience. People are so ready to judge…they don’t want to exercise their brains and thus categorizing anything in black n white is the easier way out for them. Thinking minds who see a situation collectively, in between the shades of grey is missing!

  2. Laura Kennedy says:

    I think of myself as a shades of grey person also…but I do see distinctions in that grey. I think that’s important; otherwise, all you’ve got is fog. For instance, the new Pope: love what he says. But that’s all. His policy decisions are right down the party line. For me, if you don’t back up your words with congruent action, if, in fact, your actions actually contradict your words, that makes me suspicious. I’d trust him more if his “grey” were distributed a little more evenly between what he says and what he does regarding church policy. He talks a good game, but his policy decisions are same old, same old. And I call that hypocrisy.

    • admin says:

      I don’t see it that way. His first and a sigificant HUGE step is the super corruption of Vatican Inc and he dumped all of the cardinals and others who were in charge of the Vatican Bank–something John Paul I couldn’t do and II didn’t want to do. I recommend you read the book “IN God’s Name”–JPI was assassinated for his efforts at change, that is way clear but no one talks about it. This pope has really done something big that bodes well for his pontificate.

      JPII was more of same corrupt stuff. Benedict was too weak to fight it and he resigned instead. There is an inside story here that makes clear what a big deal this Pope’s actions are. I believe it’s unfair to say he is a hypocrite…change does not happen overnight but it does happen with a will to change and strategic actions behind it. One thing I learned doing reputation management and running public involvement campaigns/change management for many years is that you simply can not deny reality or change it overnight –you have to work strategically to effectuate really big change. It’s not what we want to hear but it doesn’t make it any less true. I have a friend working on a big change project who is like a bulldog–he has pissed off everyone and nothing has changed at all because they dug in their heels. Even policy makers who want the change aren’t supporting sufficiently. I’ve worked in strategy all my life and i know it works. And often, so does building bridges. What doesn’t work is to be confrontational and force things. Slow, steady, gentle with jabs when necessary. It works.

      • Laura Kennedy says:

        You’re totally right about the need for strategic change. And kudos to him for what he has done re the Vatican Bank. Changes to the internal power structure of the church can lay necessary foundations for broader change. But I still regard him as anti-woman at his core for a number of his actions: his censure of American nuns, excommunication of the priest who wrote an opinion of admitting women (and gays) to the priesthood, his refusal to extend even the title of Deacon to women, which would be no big deal on his part,and so on. (Women have historically always gotten pushed to the bottom of the list, because there are other “more important” things to attend to.) One of his first acts was making whistle-blowing ILLEGAL. Tell the Truth, Go to Jail. In Vatican City, at least. That turned my radar up to high right away with this guy.

        As to Yallop? Sorry, I consider him the equivalent of a tea-party “birther.” Have you read Cornwell’s A Thief in the Night? Better researched, better documented, more believable, and by no means uncritical of the church. He shreds Yallop.

  3. PatU says:

    I always sensed we had a few things in common. Now a few more.

  4. pia says:

    I think the new pope has done some amazing things. While I will talk about almost anything I won’t talk about religion on the Internet as it has gotten me into so much trouble–and not being Catholic–though almost all my friends are I feel–I don’t want to inadvertently offend. Something I can do in my sleep.

    As to shades of gray–I think the Internet lends itself to black & white thinking. You have 15 seconds to grab a person’s attention. and you’re supposed to keep it short. Brevity doesn’t lend itself to nuance and without nuance the gray is gone. Which is a damn shame.

  5. Mary Buchan says:

    Yes! Amen! I love our new Pope and am praying for him. Black and White has never worked for me. I have tried to make it work but I always see both sides (gray) and I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Carol Graham says:

    I agree and disagree with your opening statements. There are people I know who are not willing to change their way of thinking even when it is made exquisitely clear that things change. Then there are those who ride the fence and live in the grey foggy area most of the time. To explain what I mean by agreeing and disagreeing: I have always been a black and white person but with an open mind and if I am shown that my way of thinking is not necessarily right, I am willing to change. So, the bottom line I guess is this: in some ways I will always be black and white, but in others, I am open to considering other ways of thinking, so therefore live in shades of grey as well. Am I rambling or making any sense?

    My husband and I traveled with a Catholic priest in ministry for 10 years in the 1980’s. We had the unique opportunity of having an audience with Pope John Paul and talking with him regarding the changes that were then coming to the Church. I believe he laid the ground work back then and people’s eyes were opened to accept change more readily.

  7. Hi Carol, Two quotes come to mind when I think of black and white thinking. The first is F Scott Fitzgerald who said, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” This is not easy to do, and obviously not everyone can do it. But it REALLY helps in this day and age. I also like Rumi who said, “out beyond right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I will meet you there.” Again not always easy to do (and some don’t even know it exists) but it’s there waiting for us. Of course I’m a gemini and find that I’m both/and ALL time! ~Kathy

  8. Jennifer Steck says:

    I think people sometimes see in black and white because it can be easier and there a plenty of people out there who love to tell us how to think. There’s no self questioning and having to really think through each situation when people are so rigid in their opinions. I like this new Pope, too. He lives his faith out loud. Inspiring!

  9. Diane says:

    I was raised by a mother who always told us, “Try to see another point of view.” It is instinctual for me now. And I think the Pope is doing a marvelous job! I love your analogy of the captain of a large, rather unwieldy boat. Perfect!

    • admin says:

      Yes, things look different depending on where you are viewing it from. I do think that change is difficult. He’s pastor of a huge flock that’s been led astray, I think, and getting everyone to follow a new direction is a difficult thing that I can appreciate. I wish that our institutions were perfect; they aren’t. But i feel that he has already made some bold moves and hope that he lives long enough to make others. And he has to worry about staying alive–crazy people out there.

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