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Conflict - it’s part of being human, but we usually don’t handle it well. Arguments and disagreements are more likely to break down and divide rather than strengthen and fortify our relationships and communities. As indicated in the New Testament letters, the early Church saw quarreling as the great existential threat to the health and influence of the Church. How should we address conflict and quarreling today? One of the more helpful practices with conflict is to identify the triggers. Tim and Rick consider conflict from communication and biblical perspectives and discuss two triggers that tend to cause conflict: “climates” and “first and second order realities.” This is part 1 of a 2-part discussion on triggers that cause conflict.


Tim Muehlhoff: Can we change the discourse of our marriage? Can we change the climate between me and my children? Or can I change the climate in a classroom? See, that's what's exciting to me. Yeah. It might be hard to change the overall climate of your 4,000 person church, but you might be able to change the climate of your small group.

Rick Langer: Welcome to the Winsome Conviction Podcast. My name's Rick Langer, and I'm a professor here at Biola University in the Department of Biblical Studies and Theology. And I'm also the director of the Office of Faith and Learning and the co-director with my friend and colleague of the Winsome Conviction Project. And Tim, why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Tim Muehlhoff: Thanks, Rick. Yeah I'm one of the co-directors here of the Winsome Conviction Project and I'm also a communication professor here at Biola. This is my 15th year, Rick. You've been, what?

Rick Langer: I hate to break it to you, Tim. You've been here longer than 15 years because you got here before I did. And this is year 17 beginning for me.

Tim Muehlhoff: I need to take a nap, Rick.

Rick Langer: Well, no, you just theater major, not math major, but go ahead.

Tim Muehlhoff: Did I have hair when you first met me?

Rick Langer: You did. For all of our listeners who've never seen Tim, there is no hair left.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. Beautifully bald. So the Winsome Conviction Project we're obviously concerned about cultivating convictions, but we're also concerned about how those convictions get shared. And when you add passionate people who care deeply about things, you are ripe for conflict.

And so we want to take a couple of podcasts and talk about what are the general things that tends to cause conflict with us and kind of break them down from a theological standpoint, from a communication standpoint.

But Rick, I remember being overseas with Campus Crusade for Christ. We were living in Lithuania and I had never really played chess and Mark loved to play chess. So you could buy chess sets everywhere. You've also been to the former Soviet Union. So we each got these gorgeous chess sets and we sat down to play chess. And I will never forget because he had played a lot, I hadn't. I start to make a move and all Mark would say, is, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

And I thought to myself, "The interesting thing about chess is you really have to anticipate what this move is going to happen now three moves down the road," and that really made me think of conflict. I wrote a book in 2014 called I Beg To Differ, Navigating Difficult Conversations In Truth and Love and wrote a chapter on what causes verbal dams to burst. That's kind of based off of proverb.

So we thought it'd be fun for us to sit down and just mention some broad categories. We think you're going to resonate with a lot of these different categories because one comment I want to make very quickly about conflict Rick, and then turn it over to you to get a biblical take on that, is conflict is present.

We actually use a phrase in communication theory of the inevitability of conflict. So in one study college students were asked to keep a record of their interactions with others and report any arguments.

The average student experienced seven arguments a week. Now some of these were big. Some of these were fairly small, but the fact that they reoccurred on a weekly basis. A family scholar recorded dinner time conversations of 52 families and identified an average of 3.3 disagreements or arguments, get a load of this, during each meal.

Rick Langer: Wow.

Tim Muehlhoff: Not during the week. This is each meal. And I'm thinking of Muehlhoff dinners. We would have skewed this Rick. We were to bump that number way up. Right? So arguments and disagreements are part and parcel of being human and being in relationships with other people.

Rick Langer: Yeah. And I think sometimes we think this is particularly bad now. We become very aware of polarization. We think of this as a problem with American politics or American religion, things of that nature. But I would like to point out that it is nothing like that. This has been with us always.

And this isn't just the thing about the world out there. This is part of the experience of the church. The New Testament church. We often long to get back to the New Testament church. It's like, have you read the book? And you basically, you look at this and the bottom line is that the New Testament views quarreling as probably the most existential threat to the wellbeing of the church that there is. And basically every single New Testament epistle talks about quarreling one way or another.

It doesn't matter if it's a long one or a short one. 1 Corinthians or Philemon, quarreling comes up. Where the church is doing badly or well, Philippians or Galatians, quarreling comes up. If 10 of the epistles [inaudible] like Romans or it happened to be very personal, kind of this warm, fuzzy departing message that Paul writes in 2 Timothy to Timothy, quarreling has talked about.

And basically every single pass, every single book of the New Testament addresses this issue and basically views it as kind of a virus or kind of a metastasizing cancer that destroys from within, which is really different than the external threats, which may feel more dangerous, but they're far less insidious.

You know they're coming, you can kind of defend yourself, but all this stuff from within. So I guess there's a good news, bad news about that. One is that you can't avoid it. But the other thing is that we have a way of kind of freaking out over the fact that we're having these quarrels and challenges. And I think there's a part of me I'd just like to say, "Hey, let's everybody calm down just a little bit about the fact of quarreling to realize that this is a problem we have to manage. We won't be able to just cure it."

And in light of that to get started on kind of management techniques, what do we do to live with the reality that we quarrel with one another?

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah, totally agree with that. When we speak to these family life marriage conferences, Rick, we have couples turn to each other and say to each other, "We fight too." And it's always a huge laugh in the auditorium because there's something nice about that to say, "Hey, we struggle with teenagers. You struggle with teenagers. We struggle with finances. You struggle with [inaudible]." It's really good to know you're not-

Rick Langer: We're not alone. We're not alone. That's a wonderful feeling to have.

Tim Muehlhoff: So let's talk about some general topics or areas that can foster disagreements. The first one, if you've listened to this podcast before, you know this is not going to be a surprise, but a poor communication climate really can foster disagreements.

They can take a small disagreement and make it bigger than what it should be. So we all know about climates, right Rick? I just got back from Arizona. I just got back in Phoenix, Arizona. Rick on Tuesday, do you know how hot it was in Arizona?

Rick Langer: Over 70 degrees.

Tim Muehlhoff: 120 degrees. Walking across campus, it was like a blast furnace. So imagine, and I was lecturing for this group in air conditioned auditoriums. But imagine we tried to have that outside. Imagine we tried to do the lecture outside in 120 degrees. The climate wouldn't allow it. I mean, you could try to do it.

It could even be dangerous to try to do it for it to be out there for an hour lecture. So a communication climate, just to remind everybody very quickly, it's made up of different areas. Like one is, do we acknowledge each other's perspectives? It doesn't mean you have to agree with each other, but do you at least acknowledge the weight of it that I'm listening to your perspective?

I acknowledge that you have good reasons for believing what you believe. I ultimately might not agree with it, but I acknowledge it. Second is trust. If trust isn't present, then it really compromises the communication climate because I don't know why you're saying what you're saying. You might have ulterior motives to try to do that.

How about expectations? Relationships are filled with expectations. So words like husband, wife, son, daughter, grandparent, relative, manager, subordinate, coworker, pastor, brother in Christ, sister in Christ, man that comes with a truckload of expectations.

And whether I feel like I'm meeting those expectations or not can really cause conflict. And then the last one is commitment. Julia Wood, who's a communications scholar, we've actually had her on our podcast, says the hallmark of commitment is the assumption of a future together.

So if you're having conflict and you're wondering, "Hey, will this friendship survive [inaudible]? Will this marriage survive? Or can we still be colleagues if we don't agree on this?" All of those things, if it's a poor communication climate, it's like trying to resolve conflict and it's 120 degrees outside. It just is working against you. So a poor communication climate will really add to conflict.

Rick Langer: So Tim we talked about this, I've heard you talk about this several times and let me just give ... This hasn't been a pushback, but there's a question that comes to my mind when I hear that. The term climate, we hear that we almost are guaranteed to almost hear the phrase climate change in this cultural moment.

And I think of climate change. I think of greenhouse gases. I think of the fact that we have 300 times as much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere as we did, I don't know, 100 ago or whatever the statistics are. And I look at climate in that sense. And I go, what in the world am I supposed to do about climate? I understand I can recycle my bottle or I can not bring my mug instead of recycling a bottle.

I can drive an electric car instead of a gas car. But the bottom line is, is that going to take 300 times the level of CO2 out of the atmosphere? And I have a feeling of kind of helplessness and here's the rub on that.

If me changing my personal area made a difference for me personally, then I have an incentive to do it. But if my change in my local area is completely swamped by the climate effect, as it is with climate change, there's nothing that I'm going to do to lower the temperature in a Southern California summer that seems to be increasing.

Nothing I'm going to do will actually cancel droughts or forest fires for me or for anybody else. If everybody changed, maybe, but I have a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness once we frame this as a climate issue. And I go, it's kind of like that in the bigger organization. If you have a church of 1000 people or a school like Biola that has 6,000 students and however many employees. So what do you make of climate changing relative to communication?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, Rick you're spot on. We're the co-directors of the Winsome Conviction Project. So if you ask both of us can you change the national discourse? I think you and I would just kind of look at each other and say, "I think that's a bit above our pay grade."

But can we change the discourse of our marriage? Can we change the climate between me and my children? Or can I change the climate in a classroom? See, that's what's exciting to me. Yeah. It might be hard to change the overall climate of your 4,000 person church, but you might be able to change the climate of your small group that's made up of six different couples.

So you're right. The higher you get up, we don't have the resources, the credibility, the access to change the national discourse, but what's great about communication, and by the way, there is a national climate. There is a climate to your church. There's a climate to a university or a corporation without a doubt.

That's true and that's harder to change, but so you and I are more talking about in this section, the conflict between you and your roommate. The conflict between you and a spouse or a child. And there I would say, identify what part of the communication climate is lacking the most and then deal with that in productive kind of ways. And some of that we'll talk about today.

So yeah, you're right. The higher you get up with power structures, I think it's very difficult to change. Although corporations do change and I do consulting for different organizations and talk about climate change like this and they've instituted some of that stuff and has made a better climate. So I think we all can make local change. It's when we start to get to the bigger change we get frustrated.

Rick Langer: And perhaps that's actually the danger is because we feel hopeless relative to the national level. Then we don't aspire to change it at the local level because you're your right. I think about that. Can I change the communication climate with a roommate or in a team that people you're working with or a committee that you're a part of?

I'm going I've been involved in changing those kind of climates and it's obviously a thing that you can do and it doesn't ... Perhaps it would be great if you could see that reverberating throughout the rest of the world. But the fact that you may not be able to see that doesn't mean you can't do it locally number one, and number two, I guess that you're perhaps just plain called to do that biblically. So you don't really get to opt out of controlling the climate to the extent you can control it, even if you can't control the global things.

Tim Muehlhoff: And here's the really good news, Rick. You can actually change the climate between you and a spouse or you and a family member or a colleague. You can actually see dramatic improvement. Like let's go back to the acknowledgement part of the communication climate and you and I sit down, let's say we're colleagues, which we are, and we have this conflict which is I just don't feel like you acknowledge my perspective.

And you're like, "Well, Tim, what does that look like to you?" It'd be like, "Oh, okay, it'd be like this. Can you paraphrase a little bit back to me what I'm saying before you disagree? And then can you just tell me what you agree with? And then of course, we'll get to parts of disagreement." You could turn around and say, "You know what? I can start doing that today." And then I feel affirmed.

And now we're on what we call a positive communication spiral. So what's great about communication climates is that you can change a roommate relationship in some very dramatic ways with some really small changes. Let me make one last point about this that I wish I would have put in the book. So I wrote a book on communication climates in marriage called Marriage Forecasting.

And I got asked a question once in a lecture that I thought, "Oh, I should have put this in the book." And that is don't confuse weather with climate. Like here in Southern California, the climate is usually pretty stable. It's really nice. That's why everybody wants to live here and we can't afford our houses, but we get rain. We get a thunderstorm every once in a while.

Well, you could look at that weather pattern, a thunderstorm and say, "Oh, the climate is really bad in California." Well, it's not. You're just having a negative weather pattern. So with a roommate relationship, if you go, "Wow, that was a pretty bad conversation after dinner. That didn't go so well, the whole climate's bad." No the climate is actually pretty good. You just had a thunderstorm.

Rick Langer: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Keep that in mind is a nice way to keep perspective.

Rick Langer: And I think actually you're talking about the things that we can do to help change that. I think, and you may have some of these phrases, but it comes to mind there's a few just ways you can even frame a response that makes things different.

I remember I learned this lesson working in a biochem lab. The guy that I worked for was an MD PhD guy. And I was helping him with research stuff. And I noticed when you'd have an interaction with him, if you were to say something that he knew already, he wouldn't say, "Yes, that's right," or, "I agree with you," whatever. He would phrase it differently and say, "You're right." He didn't say that I thought the same thing, or I already knew the same thing.

It was just this fundamental acknowledgement. And there's no backstory. Did I already know you're right? I've known that truth for 40 years. He didn't bother sharing that with me. He just said, "You're right." And I swear if you're having a conversation with somebody and they make a good point, if you just dropped whatever you were doing verbally at that moment and just said, "You know, you're right," that is a really important thought.

And I don't care if you've been thinking that thought for the last 12 years. Just acknowledging that what this person said is true and valuable at this moment. And let me drop all else on my agenda to give that kind of thing. And you can almost feel the climate in the conversation changing at that moment.

Tim Muehlhoff: You can. That's a great point. Two quick observations. One. This is the difference between you and me. I was a theater major Rick. You are a philosopher, a former pastor, a professor, and worked in a bio lab. The only way I'd work in a bio lab is mopping the floor of the bio lab. Because chemistry was your background, right?

Rick Langer: That was my major. Didn't learn a lot about communication there, but it's funny, back to this is you see it everywhere. This is not a thing that's all about church order, but it's the thing that applies in the lab. And I worked for two or three different people and I got along with all the people, but he was always one of my favorite people to work for because he had two or three communication habits that just made me want to talk to him.

And the other folks, like I say, it wasn't really a problematic situation in other places, but he was always a guy that I could just feel. I almost felt invited in just because of a couple of really simple disciplines like that.

Tim Muehlhoff: Wow. You're amazing. I had mime classes, Rick. I had mime. By the way you said something that just made me think you were talking about this person who had that affirming stance. Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography said most conversations will go well if you begin with just these two words. I think and then you give your opinion.

I think this could be [inaudible] instead of just saying, "This is how it is." I thought that was really good. If I was Benjamin Franklin, you wouldn't even be able to talk to me.

Rick Langer: Yeah. There you go. Well, and we've talked before about even saying phrases like, "I think I think."

Tim Muehlhoff: I think I think, yeah.

Rick Langer: Just softening some of these things. Again, these are things that can alter that climate. So what else did he have?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, and that's John Gottman. Before we jump on, Gottman, who's one of the top relational experts in the world says, see what we're talking about as a soft startup. I think I think is a soft startup as opposed to a harsh startup.

And Gottman's famous for saying the first 45 seconds of a conversation sets the tone for the entire conversation. So these small little verbal cues, I think I think that's what he would call soft startup. I think that's really good. Hey, here's one that I think is kind of interesting because it's got a really fancy name. It's called first and second order realities.

Rick Langer: Now you're trying to act like you're a philosopher. You can't pull this by me without me noticing just so you know.

Tim Muehlhoff: I'm trying to make up ground.

Rick Langer: You could try miming it. It might work better. But go ahead.

Tim Muehlhoff: I know I'm trying to make up ground. In Latin. No. First and second order reality. So a first order reality is something that we would say is undeniable. Like the illustration I've used with my students before when Barack Obama was running for president, he got highly criticized for what he didn't wear and what he didn't wear was a lapel pin of the American flag. He just didn't wear it.

Rick Langer: You would see on the picture.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah you would see in the picture.

Rick Langer: There was no-

Tim Muehlhoff: It is undeniable. He does not have the American flag lapel pin on his suit. And he got heavily criticized by the Republicans for that. That is what we call a first order reality. I was late to dinner. That's undeniable. I said I'd be home at 5:00. I came in at 5:20. That's a first order reality. You can't disagree with that. It's fact. Second order reality though is what do you interpret that to mean?

Like Barack Obama did not have the lapel pin. The Republicans of course took a negative interpretation that he was-

Rick Langer: Not patriotic.

Tim Muehlhoff: Not patriotic. Your lateness second order reality is well, because you don't care about dinner. It's obvious that family isn't important to you. See that second order reality is what shapes the first order reality. It's my interpretation that I bring to the table of something that has happened that is undeniable and Rick, oh my goodness.

This is communication theory 101. We really need to analyze our second order realities. My interpretations that I bring and you know how funny this is Rick, with some people they're late and you laugh it off. Why? Because you like this person or maybe they have a good history of not being late and they were late.

Another person is late and you climb all over them and have a really negative interpretation. So we were at a Family Life marriage conference. A woman comes up and she's upset. You could tell she was pretty upset. And she just starts to speak.

The husband jumps over what she's saying. And he jumps in and he goes, "She treats me like a child. She treats me like a child." And I was like, "Okay, can you give me a for instance of that?" He goes, "Yeah, I'll give you one. I go in the bathroom, brush my teeth. She's put toothpaste on the toothbrush as if I can't do that, treating me like I'm a child."

Oh, Rick, she exploded. She said, "I do that to show you I'm thinking of you." So think about that. First order reality. There is toothpaste-

Rick Langer: Toothpaste on the toothbrush. No one can deny it.

Tim Muehlhoff: Her second order reality is I was thinking of you and did this to be kind.

Rick Langer: That way you don't have to do it yourself. I had the tube out, anyhow, why not do it for both of us?

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. He says, "You're treating me as a child." So man, that is the heart of conflict is we are looking at something and we have two vastly different interpretations of what's happening. And we can see that being played out today all over the place.

Rick Langer: Yeah. I think one of the things that I hear a lot in common in political discourse, but this is the thing that a lot of people in the church end up talking about is caring for the poor. And you have some people say, "Yes, we need to care for the poor. And that's exactly why I want us to expand the healthcare access. That's why I want to make sure we have job training. That's what I want to have a good welfare safety net. We need to care for the homeless and all of those kinds of things."

And the other person's saying, "I want a healthy economy. I think Bill Gates has done more to resolve poverty than Mother Teresa has." And I've literally heard people say that. And I think the interesting thing is you go, "Oh, that isn't just a crazy thought."

There are different approaches. And the reading of, oh, the only reason you like Bill Gates over Mother Theresa, is that you're a filthy capitalist yourself or you want to get rich or whatever it may be. And the only reason that you don't support these things because you don't care about the poor.

Do you really cares is just your excuse. So all of that reading what you might call interpretation is the second order reality. And the first order reality of do you support expanding the welfare system or do you support reducing capital gains tax are very, very simple brute facts in comparison to that interpretation that you lay on the second order interpretation.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. And so those of you listening to this podcast, we had an amazing thing that happened in the state of California. We opened the state, right?

Rick Langer: Amazing.

Tim Muehlhoff: Amazing. The governor who is being recalled, maybe that softened him.

Rick Langer: That'll teach him.

Tim Muehlhoff: He opened the state. So wearing a mask, not wearing a mask. How about vaccinations? So you say to a person, "Are you vaccinated?" Because a lot of these things now you walk into a store. I just went to the grocery store before this podcast, there was a big old sign that says, "If you are vaccinated, then you don't have to wear a mask. If you're not vaccinated, you must wear a mask."

So if I look at a person and they are not wearing a mask, that's a first order reality. Or I'm not vaccinated. First order reality. But now I have these interpretations, like why are you not vaccinated?

Rick Langer: You don't care about other people.

Tim Muehlhoff: You don't care about neighbor love.

Rick Langer: You think the whole thing was a hoax. There's no such thing as COVID.

Tim Muehlhoff: So Rick, this to me is man, this is marriage 101. It's parenting 101. A child is at the table. And he's looking at his cell phone as you're trying to have a family conversation. That is a first order reality. It's indisputable. He's looking at the cell phone. I can interpret it. You're just not interested in the family. You're distracted. It's your generation, blah, blah, blah.

And it could be that he's getting an important text that he feels like he really needs to be a good friend and respond to. So that brings us to something we call perception checking. Is I need to check my second order realities with you to say, "Rick, you were a little bit late. Why?"

Now, the tone is everything. If I say to you, "Rick, you were late. Why?" That's what Gottman is saying is a hard start-up. And I said, "Rick, you're late." And Rosenfeld who came up with this idea of perception checking says offer two interpretations and have one of them be positive.

So I could say to you, "Rick, I know that you were a bit late to this podcast recording. Did you hit traffic or time just get away from you?" So one's a positive and one can be kind of, sort of maybe what you thought it was, but I thought that's good to offer different varieties, not just offer two negative ones. Did you not care about the podcast or time just get away from you?

Rick Langer: Yeah. And tell me another kind of interesting strategy I think of less oriented to an event here, but more towards how do you approach social policies or things like that to just invite someone to tell me what you think about that. I literally have never thought of building business as a way to relieve poverty. Tell me the story of that, or why is it that you think that welfare system is so vitally important?

Isn't the goal just to get people off welfare? And so it should be as small as possible. And then people start to share their own story, their own experience and you're like, "Oh." I had this experience talking with someone about vaccination issues and I have always been inclined to get vaccinations. What's the big deal? It's a wonderful model of common grace.

Let's celebrate that fact and roll up your sleeve, but then you talk to some people who've had some issues in their family, health issues or things like that. And you're like, "Oh." So my fundamental perception of vaccination has not changed. I'm still going to get the vaccine.

But on the other hand to just stop and say, let me check my perception. Is this person just being belligerent? Are they being silly? What is it that's going on? And it was fascinating for me. I actually had a couple of people in the conversation group I was having that had some concerns. I thought, "Oh, that's quite interesting."

Now I am not a guy who's going to say, therefore, who cares about vaccinations, but it was one of those things that made me realize that there's a lot more complexity in terms of why people feel the way they do than I had ever imagined. And it's really good for me to just broaden my mind about that.

Tim Muehlhoff: And then give you a real-world example. So you know that my wife Norine and I are we're part of this group, we're leaving to go to Tanzania to work with women who are in domestic violence situations. We're going to be working with some safe houses with a great group called The Graceful Warrior Project.

But the leader is having us read a book. Have you heard of the book When Helping Hurts?

Rick Langer: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Have you read it?

Rick Langer: Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh, Rick. Talk about blowing your categories and being thoroughly convicting. So he says in that book that sometimes when you walk outside and there's a homeless person right there asking for money that it might not be in the best interest of that person to actually give them money. And I'm not doing justice to his argument because it's quite nuanced and all this stuff.

But so let's say a person's looking at me and I walk out of a store and there's a homeless person who holds out their hand. And I don't give him money. That is a first order reality. And you go, "That Muehlhoff. He preaches one. I've literally heard this man preach about neighbor love. And I just literally watched him and he walked by and didn't give any money."

That is a first order reality. I didn't do it. But now if you talk to me and perception check, I'd say, "Listen, I usually do. I just read a book that blew my categories. And now I'm just wondering what the best thing to do is. So you're right. I didn't, but here's my reasons for not doing it."

Rick Langer: And that's actually an interesting name of the process of perception checking is actually where you show regard and respect for another person. Where you say, "Let me assume the best." And inquire. What was the story? And you're like, "Oh, that's great."

So you wrote all this in your book. You said this is 2014 that that book came out?

Tim Muehlhoff: 2014, I Beg To Differ, yeah.

Rick Langer: I would like to argue that you've dated yourself with this material because you made a crazy claim in here. You may not have noticed this, but you made this crazy claim that first order reality things are things that we don't normally argue about. And now I'm like, "Tim, welcome to 2020."

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh. That's interesting.

Rick Langer: Because it seems like in 2020, suddenly we fight about the facts, not just the interpretations. Did Donald Trump win the election? Did he lose the election? Is there the Q Anon, is this a conspiracy or is this a real viable threat? All of these things have suddenly become fact questions. And it seems as if we occupy different worlds from one another with different realities. So has that changed? I guess that's the first question. Let me validate that. Do you agree with that perception? And then two, what do we do about it?

Tim Muehlhoff: No, I love where you're going with this and we are in [inaudible] bizarre territory Rick where it is not the first order realities are getting [crosstalk].

Rick Langer: They're getting shaky.

Tim Muehlhoff: So let me tighten up my language just for a little bit. And I would say here's the first order reality that we all can agree on. Donald Trump is not the current president of the United States. He's no longer in office. Now that could be for a multitude of reasons. The election was taken from him, ballot stuffing, irregularities. But I do think we could pull people together to say, "Can we agree on one thing?"

Rick Langer: And you think, even though that's getting pretty thin as a reality claim, it still is an important starting point to say, "We can agree about this still though, because he's not in office."

Tim Muehlhoff: Because let's flip it to a marriage relationship where you sit down with the credit card bill and you say, "Listen the first order reality is we are spending 15% more. I mean, we're just looking at the numbers. It's 15% more." Now spouse A might say, "And it's because of this. It's you and Amazon Prime to make it personal." I love Amazon prime. It's God's gift to a fallen world.

And sometimes two days is too long Rick. The history of [inaudible] sheep herders might not be there in a day or two.

Rick Langer: And you really want to read it now.

Tim Muehlhoff: So the first order reality I think we can agree on is you're right. We have spent 15% more and now we're going to get to the second order reality.

Rick Langer: And there are statistics available about what you've overspent or spent more on, and those could be contested or whatever. But the brute fact is you have, and I guess to reemphasize, you're arguing that there still is value in identifying the part of this that you can't agree on, even if that's thinner than what it might've been two years ago in what we could assume like in public discourse perhaps.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. And in today's argument culture, we want to fight to get agreement. So if we can even get those thin facts, those first order realities, I think there's some benefit to that. And then we're going to be getting into the second order interpretations pretty quickly.

Well, Rick, now that we've solved conflict, we should do climate change.

Rick Langer: Cool.

Tim Muehlhoff: Real climate change.

Rick Langer: Well, I think we're going to follow up on this a little bit with a few more ideas, kind of on the personal, and there's kind of a spiritual formation side of this too. Can you be willing to do these things? And I think this is a thing that we probably underplay. So we'll follow up on this in a follow-up podcast.

Tim Muehlhoff: And thanks for listening to us. Please, if you want to check out our website, We have other podcasts archived. We have talks that we've done. We have articles, sources that we think are great that you should be aware of. So please check us out.

Rick Langer: And you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, wherever you find your podcasts. We'd love to have you be a regular listener. Thanks so much for joining us.