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The Table Video

Richard Mouw

How to Be Humble in Crucial Conversations

President Emeritus and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
August 9, 2015

It’s tempting, when we’re in a conversation about religion, politics, or morality, to strive for domination of your conversation partner. Is that a Christian way to speak? Richard Mouw offers some wisdom on how to be a humble conversation partner.


And how do we surrender the impulse to dominate our interlocutor, to maybe even shame them, to always win? I mean, what needs to change? Maybe even our deep beliefs about God, his providence, his purposes. I mean, what needs to be happening, in this kind of deeper place, so that we become the kind of people who are not almost neurotically trying to dominate discourse and shut out perspectives? What do we need to believe more deeply that may only hold loosely now?

Well, to me, a wonderful model there in the Bible is Psalm 139 where the psalmist says at a certain point, “Lord, I hate your enemies with a perfect hatred.” God, you can count on me, I’m on your side. You and me. And then, he immediately, it’s like he stops and says, uh oh. And then, he says, “Search me and know my thoughts “and see if there be any wicked way in me. “And lead me in the way everlasting.”

And I think that since that, before God, we need to be saying, see if there’s any wicked way in me. And then, that can transfer to our neighbors, people with whom we disagree. See if there’s any, what do you think of the kind of view? One of my desires in talking about some the most controversial issues of sexuality is to lower the rhetoric and just say to my friends in the gay, lesbian movement, what is it about me that scares you so much?

And really to listen to that. And I hope they would listen to me when I say, what is it about what you stand for that troubles me? But I think it’s that level of wanting to learn from the other person because we’ve been humbled before God. And we realize that we have no business telling God, oh, we’re on your side, don’t worry about me. I got it all straightened out. And so, a lot of it goes right back to that fundamental relationship with God. And once we’ve said that to God, I think we’re free to say it to other people.