Coming To Grips With Contradiction

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Humans don’t like having contradictions in their lives.

Research shows they usually try one of the following to resolve contradictions.

  1. They change their thinking in the face of contradiction
  2. They change their behavior to undo contradictions
  3. They believe the contradiction to be true (rationalization)
  4. They make it worth their time to live with the contradiction

Managing contradiction is one of the major activities we engage in as human beings. The places where contradictions occur most frequently are in business, religion, and child rearing.

Business:

In my life as a management consultant, I often draw close to the CEO of the company. In that capacity, it’s typical for the CEO to ask the consultant to carry messages to his staff and organization. Often you become his errand boy.

I ended up hating that role. That’s not what I wanted to do as a management consultant. It created a lot of internal conflict, especially when the message I was to carry was one that I did not believe in.

So, as I obtained new clients, I made it clear to the CEO I don’t carry anyone’s water. I’m here to help grow the company, not be a messenger boy.

Since doing that I’ve had pretty good success at making that philosophy stick.

I solved the contradiction by changing my behavior. (2)

Religion:

Anyone involved in organized religion is familiar with the contradictions that have been uncovered. We have the Internet to thank for this. I’m a Mormon, and the Internet has had a heyday with the Mormon Church’s history. These findings have had minimal Impact on me.

Why?

My personal experience in the church has been very positive. For a time, I was a full time religion teacher for the church. My salary was modest but adequate.

Also, I was at one time or another, a bishop in a stake presidency, mission president, or a member of a board of trustees appointed by the president of the church.

When I left the employ of the church to start a consulting firm, all my contacts and first contracts resulted from my association with church members. The financial rewards were handsome. I also became a radio commentator with my daily commentaries being heard throughout the west. I became wealthy because of these activities, none of which would have occurred without my church affiliation.

Three of my five children received elite college educations at BYU, the other two from Utah universities that were equally as successful as BYU.

Almost all of my graduate studies were paid for by my church employer. I also attended elite universities, the University of Southern California being one of them.

My wife finished her college degree at the University of Utah, a college first started by the Mormon Church.

If there is anyone who has benefited in every conceivable way from membership in the church it is I. I’m a lot of things, ungrateful isn’t one of them.

I am not going to turn on the church because of the contradictions that are present in the church. My benefits far outweigh my concerns about church history.

Of course the problem with this approach is that a class system is created. Nevertheless, my gratitude is full because of what I have personally received by virtue of my membership.

So, my contradiction was overcome by the benefits I derived. (4)

Religion again:

While I am not moved by contradictions because of the high rewards, I am bothered by arguments that are not reasonable or rational in everyday church worship. This was the case in many of the church meetings I attended. It got to the point that I would either make most Sunday school class members so upset with my comments or that I would be so frustrated by compromising and rationalizing my answers that I decided to step back. My question to myself was, “Where do I stand? My answer was, “from this point on, it’s square pegs in square holes. Round pegs in round holes. No more round pegs in square holes, no more square pegs in round holes.”

I don’t mind calling a hard strike on the facts. I don’t believe in apologetics that use obfuscation as their main line of defense. I don’t have to believe anything that is not true. I don’t believe in rationalization in order to overcome personal conflict that contradictions create.

For example If Joseph Smith made mistakes, don’t hide them and don’t rationalize them. You can disagree with them, you can embrace them, but don’t make them something they aren’t. It always compounds the problem.

We have a very messy past. For the past thirty years our cover-up of the past exceeds the messiness of our past. Don’t fake it, don’t change it.

I faced the contradiction and made my stand: Think clearly. (1)

Child Rearing:

My philosophy is that there is nothing worth getting angry over.

My children remind me that during their child rearing years I could really get mad at them.

I would deny that. I would tell them that they thought I was angry but, I wasn’t.

As time passed, it slowly occurred to me they wouldn’t say that to me if it didn’t really occur. Slowly I faced my past, and proceeded to apologize to each of them.

Of all the arts, the art of child rearing is the most compromising. You say and do things you wouldn’t do in polite society.

I rationalized a lot in order not to face the contradiction I had created.

I handled my contradiction by rationalizing. (3) (not good)

So, I end up where I began: people don’t like to have contradiction in their lives. They will execute various strategies to manage the contradiction. I know, I’ve used them all.