Being Literal

I recently got a book from the library that an acquaintance recommended. She didn’t recommend it for the parenting advice, but more for the thoughts on having children, birth control, marriage, etc. I was really enjoying the book until I came upon the section on training a child. The book’s author advised not to listen to any of the parenting experts & didn’t offer much counsel of her own, but she did share a couple of readers’ stories which promptly made me lose my interest in the book due to some of their “training methods”. When I asked my acquaintance about it, she said she didn’t really listen to the parenting advice, but simply absorbed wisdom from the other topics of interest in this author’s books.

I have only recently realized how literal I am. I am very, very literal. And I really struggle with reading a book and accepting any of its advice when I strongly disagree with certain aspects of it.

This hit home again recently when one of the blogs I read referenced a teaching by someone I know vaguely, but have heard a lot about from people who do know him. I know this person is not a person of integrity, and therefore, I couldn’t really absorb the teaching. This same issue has come up before in ministry circles. I’m not able to quote authors in my talks or articles who I know disagree with the fundamental premise of why I do the type of ministry that I do. Others can easily quote those whom they may disagree with on certain topics, even if those topics are the core of their ministry, because they simply figure they will not agree with everyone on everything.

To my other literal readers – are you like this? Or are you able to take what you like & leave the rest, as the 12 steps would say? To my less literal readers – are you able to sort of separate the things you agree & disagree with? One of my campus ministry leaders I know always said not to dismiss truth simply because of its source. Generally, I think that’s good advice, but sometimes, I have a really hard time separating any “truth” I might be able to absorb from its source if that source has foundations I strongly disagree with.


3 thoughts on “Being Literal

  1. I try to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. Not saying it’s always easy, but I try. My dad being a friend of Bill taught me that lesson many years ago and I have to say it has helped me. I had an acquaintance once who was very harsh about something that happened in my life and nothing I said could help her see the reality of the situation rather than what she assumed it was. Now years later, she has said a few things that completely contradict her previous statements and attitudes. It does bother me a bit, but since it’s someone who I no longer consider part of my life, I leave it alone.
    As for religion, I can remember feeling so hurt about a question that we had asked you and Roy a few years back after I had E. Roy didn’t answer, but you did and I didn’t understand your answer, but got the impression that it wasn’t something I should ask an explanation for. It was never brought up again. Now years later I have (I think) come to realize why you answered the way you did and I am ok with it.
    In a nutshell, I think sometimes taking things too literally (and that to me is a relative term) is individual. If you could glean some valuable information from that book, great. If not, that would be ok too. Maybe someday you’ll find even if out of curiousity you want to finish reading it to see what if anything there was that could be of interest to you. I try to give people/things the benefit of the doubt and I’m pretty often glad I did. Not saying that I’m always good at it, but I try LOL And with books, there are plenty I’ve read both fiction and non-fiction that I think were kind of a waste of my time, but if I found one bit of it stuck with me then I know it wasn’t.
    I love you 🙂

  2. I once heard a preacher (Ray Comfort, I think it was) say that “the quality of the seed is unaffected by the sower”, and that has really shaped my relationship with people I don’t agree with. Truth all comes from one source, anyhow. The caution I tend to follow is that truth perverted so often sounds like truth that it trips us up, so just keep praying and seeking what the Lord would have YOU do for YOUR child. 🙂

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