Growing Up Into Both/And

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One of the hallmarks of the Generous Space Community is the willingness to embrace “both / and.” Much of our world is split into an “either / or” mentality. Either you are liberal or you are conservative. Either you are affirming or you are non-affirming.  Such polarity can quickly deteriorate into extremes and in worst case scenarios the vilifying and scapegoating of the other.  Either you are with me or you are against me.  Either agree with me 100% or I cannot trust you and must see you as the enemy.

In contrast, “both / and” invites us into a space where we see nuance, mystery, and even paradox as fertile places for growth and transformation.  Difference doesn’t need to be threatening and it doesn’t have to be a problem to fix.  Difference might actually enlarge the values that we hold dear: compassion, understanding, patience, humility, forgiveness, love.

Difference might actually enlarge the values that we hold dear: compassion, understanding, patience, humility, forgiveness, love.

I am both a committed follower of Jesus and I want to learn from those of a different faith.  I am both pursuing justice for LGBTQ+ people and I want to listen deeply to the hearts of those who hold traditional views on sexuality and marriage within the church.  I am both strongly independent and I choose to intentionally cultivate interdependent relationships in community.

“Both / and” is, in many ways, a very freeing place to be.  I can anticipate seeing good and finding God at work in the one who is very different than I am. And I, myself, don’t need to be limited to compartmentalized little boxes, but can express the reality of the tensions I live with as I seek to learn and to love well.

“Both / and” can also be a draining place to be. It requires us to be fully present, attuned to what is going on inside of ourselves. It challenges our quick, defensive reactions and reminds us to hit “pause” before taking offense. It continually asks us to see things from the other’s perspective. It calls us to live out the words, “If I diminish you…I diminish myself” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu). And this is hard.  Instead of harvesting the energy that the fear and anger of “us vs. them” creates, “both / and” cultivates a spirit of relinquishment – that when you’re first practicing feels exhausting.

If I diminish you…I diminish myself. ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

That is why we need the “both / and” of affinity and difference.  We need to find people who are like us, who think and believe like us, who understand us without much effort, and who share similar dreams, goals, and commitments.  And we need to find people who are different than us, who stretch us, who enlarge in us the fruits of the Spirit, who invite us to see things from another perspective, who offer a mirror to our blind-spots, prejudices, and privilege. Both affinity and difference.

We seek to experience this at our retreats.