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Why we have hope for 2024

courageous conversations empathy prograce training vision Jan 22, 2024
quote Angela Weszely CEO of ProGrace hope for 2024


2024 is an election year in the United States, bringing many divisive topics to the forefront of conversation in both the media and our personal lives in the US and other Western nations. Many people dread the contention that comes with a presidential election, but at ProGrace, we feel motivated and energized to empower our community to have better conversations. After all, what better time to have the difficult discussions than now? Whether you enjoy or dread these talks, they will most likely be inevitable for many of us as we navigate our relationships–and our social media accounts. 

"I believe that as we are thinking and talking more like Jesus would if he were here, we can engage in this issue in a whole new way so we can engage each other in conversation across political lines." -Angela Weszely

How to refocus if you are feeling hopeless

Many of us struggle with passive hopelessness as we watch the news unfold or hear a relative starting a familiar rant on politics. It can feel too big and overwhelming for one person to affect any change, so we sit back, thinking there is nothing we can do. The truth is that we can affect change, one conversation at a time. This may seem to be a small step, but when we do not discuss complex issues with others, nothing changes. Real change happens one conversation at a time. Rather than allowing the divisive issues to further polarize and divide us, we can unite in the spirit of community and tackle these talks with patience, curiosity, and empathy. There are no limits to the effect the untied body of Christ can have on the world around us. 

Entering difficult conversations with grace does not come naturally to most of us. It’s easy to listen to those with different opinions with an air of defensiveness, only listening for inaccuracies in the other person’s words rather than the content and the beliefs behind them. The ProGrace community is already skilled in responding to complex topics with a nonpolitical perspective that reflects the heart of Jesus, and those same skills can help us have these conversations. Like what we teach in Transform, our course for groups and individuals, we need to start with our hearts. When we have a change of heart and reframe our perspective to view other people and issues through a Jesus perspective, we will naturally talk and engage differently. 

“What is in our heart comes out through our language. So, it makes sense that once our mindset has shifted, we will be able to talk about it.” - Angela Weszely

How does conversation lead to change?

Conversation plays a huge role in changing the Christian response to abortion. We can engage members of our churches who have personal experience with abortion and let them know that they are safe to discuss their experience with us. When we as Christians and church members are perceived as safe to approach by those who have experienced abortion or unintended pregnancy, people will come to the Church for help rather than experiencing feelings, like panic and shame, in isolation. We will make the love and acceptance of Jesus known and understood in our community, leading to a fuller and more comprehensive understanding of who God is. This is the ultimate goal of ProGrace, and conversation is how we start on the path to this reality. 

How can I have better conversations?

Knowing the importance of impactful conversations is where we start, but the real reason we aren’t already having them is because, often, we just do not know how. Our commitment to better conversations prompted us to partner with Urban Rural Action in the National Day of Dialogue 2024 (NDOD). The ProGrace team attended NDOD and participated in learning and breakout sessions where we could put the skills we were taught into action, and we are excited to share them with you for your own use. At the end of this post you will find a link to a free downloadable resource that gives you the tools you will need.

The ABCs of Constructive Conversations, from Urban Rural Action, is the model you need to have better conversations:

A-ASK to understand the other person’s perspective

B-BREAK DOWN your own view

C-CHECK your understanding

A facilitator asked us which steps we overused, and the unanimous answer was “B.” While all of the steps are important, “A” and “C” are the steps that will increase your understanding of the other person and should be at the forefront of the conversation. These steps allow us to step into the person’s experience with curiosity. When we reach “B,” the person will already feel heard and be more willing to listen to what you say–this is how to have a productive conversation. 

This method underscores the power of stories in our human experience and in developing empathy for one another. It also shows the importance of lived experience on a person’s opinions and beliefs. There really is no way to understand why someone views an issue the way they do until we hear their story. When we look at the ministry of Jesus, this is something He did often and well. As we walk with Him, He sees us, He sees our views and the experiences that have led to these views, and He helps us to see one another. This is what you will experience when you focus on “A” and “C” in difficult conversations and truly listen to the other person. You may find that you have different opinions based on the same core beliefs. 

In a previous season of our podcast, ProGrace cofounders Angela and Denise sat down with Laura McAlpine, who was working at a women’s health center at the time and advocating for women’s rights, including the right to an abortion. Through conversations in which the women stayed open and curious about one another, they discovered that they were motivated by a desire to help people, especially women but had gone about this in very different ways. Their shared value for improving the human experience brought them from potential enemies to friends. Clips from the conversations with Laura are included in the latest episode of the podcast.

As Christians, it is even more important that we have fair and equitable conversations. People will look to us as representatives of Christ. We need to make certain that when talking about an issue, we talk about it through the lens of Jesus and how He sees other people’s experiences and stories. He is always asking to understand a person’s perspective and checking His understanding. We want to be sure to represent the empathy that Jesus has in our dealings with other people so that they can come to know us–and Jesus–better. We have a powerful responsibility to represent Christ, and we can bring change to our communities, neighbors, and families by listening with empathy and understanding the lived experiences of others. 



Listen to Episode 9 of our podcast for an example of these tools in action in the conversation with ProGrace friend Laura McAlpine.


Download our FREE resource guide to courageous conversations here.


For more resources:

Ground Rules for Justice-Centered Conversations



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