While you’re at work

Between 6:00 – 9:00 AM your middle class neighborhood clears out. Or so you think. The vast majority of residents wake up, make a cup of coffee, put on morning radio, and drive to work.

But what happens while you’re away? Have you ever wondered? Probably not. We live in an out of sight out of mind culture so chances are high you have no idea what happens during the day at your house while you’re at work.


Race in America

“We need to talk about race in America.” 

I’ve heard that phrase often. Whether it’s a political candidate stumbling over whether or not to disavow an association with the Klu Klux Klan or a pastor of an almost-all-white-church stumbling through an awkward conversation… it’s something you say that makes it seem like you’re really interested when in fact you aren’t.

“We need to talk about race in America.” 

For me, I see this as a placeholder phrase. It’s slightly better than saying “uh, I dunno.

I think a lot of people truly are interested in cultivating change about race, but they just don’t know where to start. For me… it is intimidating because I am mostly ignorant of the way that society has privileged me. I find myself afraid to say the wrong things and consequently say nothing.

So perhaps instead of saying, “We need to talk about race in America” I should start saying, “I need to listen better about race in America”?


If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar?


I can’t understand until I listen.

I can’t change until I understand.


I Believe Change is Possible

I’m locked into my way of thinking.

You are locked into yours.

We’re enjoying the banter back and forth.

I’m convinced I’m going to change you and visa versa.

Of course, neither one of us changes our minds. The banter ends and we move on.

This seems to be the course most online conversations take today. If we’re really honest– it’s the way most adults seem to respond to a lot of things.

Conversations is amicable. But true change of actions or opinions seem rare.

Is Change Possible?

Yes! I believe in change absolutely. Core to being a Christian is that He is God and I am not, His ways are right and I sometimes I find myself in the wrong. Without the possibility of change, without an acknowledgement that my ways are insufficient… the Christian life is a joke.  

But what about life change? Is it possible to talk someone out of a firmly held position? Again, I believe the answer is yes.

The Pearl

Deep inside every firmly held belief is a pearl of doubt about that belief. Each of us have lots of pearls in our inward thoughts.

We believe in fiscal conservatism. We believe in the right to bear arms. We believe Tupac is still alive. We believe things are more dangerous today than yesterday. We believe in democracy. We believe GIF is pronounced with a hard G and not like the peanut butter. On and on are all of these beliefs make up who we are, some are firmly held while others we’re less sure of.

But behind each belief is a pearl of doubt. The key to changing someone’s firmly held belief is discovering what this pearl is. Here are two.

Pearl #1: Relationship

For most of human history being gay was a secret. Yet, in less than a generation, our society went from barely acknowledging the LGBT community even existed to seeing gay marriage become the law of the land. How did that happen? Relationship.

For centuries the narrative was that being gay was bad. But as it became more popular (and safer) for people to come out about their sexuality, all of a sudden the “bad narrative” fell apart. You would hear someone say being gay was bad and you’d think about your friends who are gay… You’d think to yourself, “Wait, they aren’t bad. They are my best friends.” And with that, the pearl of doubt that being gay is bad began to grow.  Then, with each new mention of the “gay = bad” narrative, you started to doubt the narrative itself because your relationships proved the narrative false.

Pearl #2: Personal security

Politicians and alarm companies have learned that personal security is a great access point to your wallet. The United States is overwhelmingly a safe place. We take our personal safety for granted. We believe that when we drive to work the road will be just as safe and secure as the last 200 times we did it. But security expands beyond safety. We expect our finances to be secure, too. Why is the unemployment rate an indicator that most Americans know about enough to know if it’s high or low? Personal security. Why do we fund the Food & Drug Administration? Food security. These measures and a thousand like them provide assurance that we are secure and can live our lives without thinking about our personal safety or security. We have come to expect that.

So if you want to change a persons opinion about something you need to make them uncomfortable when it comes to their security. You don’t even have to provide a direct threat! When we lived in Michigan we used to joke that the weather forecasters were paid off by the grocery stores. If they forecasted a big snow storm, this threatened personal security, and people made a run on gas and bread and milk and salt like it was the storm of the century… every month!

Why does this work? Because everyone has a personal security pearl. They’ll change if their job is threatened. They’ll change if their commute is slow. They’ll change if they find out their neighbors house was robbed. We all sit on a pearl of doubt when it comes to personal security.


So why do I bring this up? I bring this up because over and over again I hear a new narrative emerging that you shouldn’t even bother talking to people about change because they simply won’t change.

And that narrative is a lie.

People change every day. You change every day.

And, as a Christian, to give up on the hope of personal change is to give up hope on God.