Ron Richardson on Polarization and the Healthier Church

In this week’s teleconference conversation about polarization Ron Richardson suggested some ways to think differently about polarized relationships. In polarized situations he has tried to think to himself: something is going on with these people that is important, and to ask himself the question, what are they anxious about?

He said one of the goals in Bowen Family Systems Theory is to get to a place of neutrality. This doesn’t mean you give up your own opinions and values.

Richardson suggested stepping out of our own reactivity which may show up as:

compliance, just going along
getting angry and fighting back
saying it’s not me, it’s them
exercising emotional distance – hiding out in the office.

These responses come from our family of origin. He says none of these help lessen polarization. What will help? Getting less reactive so we can be present with people.

When people are anxious, we always need to start with ourselves, and relate with interest and concern to those who are expressing the anxiety. He said that if he were a pastor again, he would spend more time calling on people in their homes, particularly leaders, and getting to know about them, and especially about their family of origin, if they were willing.

As he does in his book, Polarization and the Healthier Church, Richardson quoted William Stringfellow: “Listening is a rare happening among human beings. Listening is a primitive act of live in which one person makes himself accessible and vulnerable to another person’s word.” He added himself, “Listen and get involved with the people who are saying things, without debating the issues with them.

The recording of the teleconference is available. E-mail me at, and I’ll send you the link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *