What is good in the position of the other?

I recently listened to Krista Tippet’s podcast interview with Frances Kissling (from 27th September 2018). It was centred on the conflict between pro choice and pro life stances on abortion in the USA and on Frances view that it isn’t always possible to come to agreement or find common ground (more like it often isn’t).

MS KISSLING…”If there isn’t the crack in the middle where there’s some people on both sides who absolutely refuse to see the other as evil, this is going to continue.”


MS KISSLING:…”What I think is very important is, I’m not a big believer in common ground. Let me be very frank about that.


MS KISSLING:… “common ground can be found between people who do not have deep, deep differences. And in politics, you can find compromise. Politics is the art of the possible. But to think that you are going to take the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Organization of Women and they are going to find common ground on abortion is not practical. It’s not going to happen, and we could extend that.

But I do think that when people who disagree with each other come together with a goal of gaining a better understanding of why the other believes what they do, good things come of that. But the pressure of coming to agreement works against really understanding each other, and we don’t understand each other”


MS KISSLING:…there are some people — not all — who see some benefit in learning why the other thinks the way that they do


MS. TIPPETT: I want to read you something that I was really struck by that you wrote. You were giving a list of a couple of qualities that you thought were necessary, as you said, if we are to continue the conversation to bring construction forward thinking approaches to what has been a long and difficult issue. One of them that really struck me was “the courage to be vulnerable in front of those we passionately disagree with.”

MS. KISSLING: Right. And I think that’s the hardest thing to do, and I think it is very hard for all of us in these situations to acknowledge, for example, that we just don’t have the answers to this problem. I don’t think we have the answers to the problem of abortion in our society, whether it’s the problem of abortion itself or the problem of how we’re going to mediate our differences about abortion.

And a willingness to admit that is very, very difficult. What is it in your own position that gives you trouble? What is it in the position of the other that you are attracted to? Where do you have doubts? Because it is only, I think, if we are interested in understanding each other and if we are ultimately interested — and it’s not a question of common ground — but if we are ultimately interested in an abortion policy that reflects what is good in the concerns of those who disagree, the only way we’re going to get any sense of what that is, is if we can acknowledge what is good in the position of the other, acknowledge what troubles us about our own position. I’ve said this to somebody recently. I said, “I don’t understand how you can work on an issue for 35 years as complicated as this and never change your mind at all about anything.”