Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sowing Discord

"There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him; Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; A heart that plots wicked schemes, feet that run swiftly to evil, The false witness who utters lies, and he who sows discord among brothers."
Pr 6.16-19

How often have we encountered actions--often by well-meaning and most of the time kind, loving individuals--that appear to deliberately piss somebody off? If we're honest with ourselves (note the word "we", which by default includes me), we should all be able to admit that we have at least once done something just to cause another person aggravation.

Every once in a while, in our refusal to consider an opposing argument, we are dismissive, argumentative, arrogant, or--worst yet--patronizing. Sometimes we try to spin a discussion with tangent thoughts and ideas, or simply insult and dismiss our opposition, and doing so as a "right" or a "duty".

Discord is, simply put, lack of harmony. People in any communal gathering are going to experience some level of discord because people have different ideas and opinions about everything. Discord is natural, and in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It's through resolving natural discord that we achieve growth.

I take my cues on discord from music. Dissonance, a term for discord in music, can be beautiful in a work. Without killing you with too much music theory, there's something called a chord, which is a series of tones played together. These tones will sometimes clash a little in the ear. The more they clash, the more dissonance the chord contains. Some of the most beautiful chords are dissonant: suspended chords, major 7th chords, diminished chords, etc. For those of you non-musicians out there, think Crosby, Stills and Nash. Those harmonies don't just happen. They took lots of time rehearsing, discussing, trying and failing to achieve something that good.

This concept has a broader impact in music as well, when we look at musical styles and genres. Take fusion, for example, or genres of music that are blended together. Fusions are responsible for some really exciting musical compositions, revolutionizing music. Ska, rockabilly, reggae, salsation, funk-metal, jazz-punk, crossover country...the list is endless. Some of the most compelling music is by musicians coming together from genres that even I wouldn't dream could work together. You wouldn't believe how much of the music you love is technically fusion. Again, the time rehearsing, discussing, trying and failing results in new, unique sounds that inspire growth. Songs are more creative, musicians expand their abilities, and music suddenly becomes limitless.

There's another kind of discord in music as well, but it's got a very different motivation at its core. It's the kind of discord which lies outside the discipline of music itself, rooted in the heart of the musician. The accompanist, for example, noticeably hammering out a melody line for a singer during a performance, because he's simply unwilling to make time for the singer to rehearse; or an instrumentalist playing at a different tempo or volume because she thinks that's how it should be performed and doesn't bother to listen to the rest of the musicians around her; or a singer who just belts it out above the rest of the ensemble in order to be heard; or that guitarist who doesn't practice, and then rather than admitting his lack of dedication to the instrument, blames the equipment. The result of this kind of discord--a sown discord--is a diminished impression of the song, of the musicians, and of music and musicianship altogether.

Sown discord is one of those misunderstood sins, because it can be so easily disguised. It's never really about working through a process to achieve a resolution. It undermines, destroys, or hurts others, because the motivation is for the perceived good of the self, not for the actual good of others. Picking fights, spinning commentary, ignoring context, whispering behind the scenes, and generally encouraging poor behavior in others are only a handful of examples. Sometimes it's celebrated and encouraged, particularly within a group of like minds. We may even convince ourselves that we are justified or obligated to tear down another person, group or organization through less than fair means, because our own agendas become completely confused with that greater good toward which we are all trying to work.

Didn't Judas sow discord by betraying Jesus? Didn't the Pharisees sow discord before Pilate, before Herod, among the Jews in order to have Him arrested and executed? They all certainly believed they were doing the right thing. I can imagine the dread that must have shot through their hearts once they realized they put to death the very God who gave them that authority they so jealously lorded over Him. The hazards of sowing discord should be clear: our Church is weakened, friendships are destroyed, motives are questioned, and we become blinded.

Christ's commandment is to love one another, and overcoming natural discord is hard enough. It's part of the growing process, and the end result will be achieved goals, opened minds and expanded possibilities. People will AND SHOULD argue their point to its natural end when they don't agree. But there is a line, and whether you feel justified or think you're obligated to do so, just don't cross it. No end justifies these means.


nkz333 said...

WOW! As a fellow musician (and student of yours!), the example of discord in music is a very powerful illustration as to how easy it is that we are all capable of this action and its effect on others. In terms of music, if there is a poor accompanist who is pounding out notes, they think they are helping, but they are changing the entire essence of the music and the relationship between the other musicians. In human relationships most of our communication is nonverbal. We can have an extreme effect on someone without saying a word, through our action alone. This discord in music is the perfect example of how one persons intentions could have an affect on the other musicians and the listeners, it can no longer be a good experience, but one that makes everyone uncomfortable. Likewise, in relationships sometimes we think that what we are doing is actually being helpful, but it is having the opposite impact on others. It isn't always our intentions, but the result that can determine our behavior. When we relate this on a spiritual level it might assume that we may think that what we are doing for someone is being helpful, but we are changing what is natural and ultimately being prideful and taking something into our power which should be left to God. Wow. Good blog, many kudos my friend.

Gina said...

Thanks for reading---ultimately being prideful and taking something into our power that we shouldn't is I believe the root problem. Take the music examples again---the accompanist. In pride, the accompanist decides to show up the singer with his banging, not helpful. Helping would be giving the notes without banging them out. It can be done, I know accompanists that can. The accompanist is focusing on himself, not on performing the composition.

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