Ancient wisdom writers note that the “purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Prov. 20:5, ESV). In today’s diverse and often divided world, people have strong opinions about potentially divisive issues such as race, politics and gender. The first step in having productive conversations is to “draw out” why someone holds a particular view. But, how?

While each of us is on our own worldview journey, there are certain building blocks common to us all. Our behaviors and values are deeply influenced not merely by ideas but by relationships and experiences. When encountering a person who thinks differently than you, uncovering the raw materials that fuel the other person’s perspective can be helpful in shaping a conversation. Consider the following.

Hinge Moments

When historians look back at all the twists and turns of the past, they often highlight “hinge moments” that have a disproportionate influence over the future. What might qualify? While there is no definitive list, the Stone Age, the black plague, the Great Depression, the passing of the Civil Rights Act, world wars, and COVID-19 easily make the cut. These events marked humanity and forever changed how we approach the future. Moving off the world stage, we could ask, What hinge moments mark you, your family, or your community? A key part of engaging another person is to surface hinge moments in a person’s life. Doing so not only affirms your interest in them but also provides invaluable information about the events that have shaped their worldview.

Consider asking:

  • What 2 or 3 key moments in your life have shaped you?
  • If you had to pick a moment that influenced how you view God or religion, what would it be?

Narrative Injury

Patrick Stokes defines narrative injury as a sudden or unplanned moment that “completely knock[s] a life off of its trajectory.” During this time, “we do not simply lose parts of ourselves” but most importantly “we lose the capacity to make sense of the parts that remain.”[1] There are moments in our journey when something happens that deeply challenges our worldview. It’s not that we abandon our convictions, but they are temporarily or forever changed. What in your worldview do you have to place a question mark over and leave temporarily unresolved? 

Consider asking:

  • What unexpected twists and turns has your life taken?
  • What has pain or suffering taught you about life?


When constructing a worldview, there are many voices that influence us. What voices rise to the top and are heard above others? What experts or authority figures have you been exposed to either in person, print, or through social media? Author and pastor Timothy Keller readily admitted that the two people who had informed his thinking about God the most were the Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards and author C. S. Lewis. Like Keller, who do you find yourself quoting the most? 

Consider asking:

If you had to compile a list of the people who have influenced you the most, who would make the list?

  • Is there an author or podcaster you find you particularly agree with?
  • If you could only consult one person for advice, who would it be?

Taking the time to surface a person’s thoughts helps us not only understand where they are coming from, but how to best share what and who has influenced the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15).

Taken from, Sean McDowell & Tim Muehlhoff, End the Stalemate: Move from Cancel Culture to Meaningful Conversations (Tyndale, 2024).

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[1] Patrick Stokes, “Wounded Stories,” New Philosopher, June-August 2022, 36.