People are interesting. I love to people-watch. And in my years of people watching I have noticed something. People like to verbally claim one thing, act differently and then really think something entirely different from number one and number two. Yes, you probably have noticed this as well. Technically I guess we could call it the Formal, Informal and Tacit and these adjectives can be applied to many things: Formal, informal and tacit structures. Formal, informal and tacit power. Formal, informal and tacit doctrines, actions, value systems, learning, organizations and so forth.
If the three are wildly different it can leads to quite a bit of disharmony – both within society and within ourselves. When we say one thing, act another and believe a third, we end up seriously conflicted. Again there is a technical term for this – dissonance. This is actually a musical term that means that the notes being played are “sour.” I found a lovely quote on Wikipedia from Roger Kamien’s 2008 book “Music: An Appreciation, 6th Brief Edition” that says:
"An unstable tone combination is a dissonance; its tension demands an onward motion to a stable chord. Thus dissonant chords are 'active'; traditionally they have been considered harsh and have expressed pain, grief, and conflict."
—Roger Kamien (2008), p.41
Dissonance is ACTIVE and UNSTABLE. It wants to move to stability. The more mature one gets, the more the formal, informal and tacit become harmonious and this mature one is said to be Wise.
We have loads of problems in this world that cause quite a bit of dissonance. For instance, those of us who are Christian know we need to assist the poor, the dispossessed, the outcast, the least, the last and the lost. We say it aloud to one another. This is our formal belief. Informally (the way things really are), we set up our structures and organizations to be, well, not poor-friendly. I have noticed a trend to charge for VBS, for instance. The costs can range according to region, but most of the time, it prices VBS out of a poor person’s pocketbook. Yes, I know there are scholarships – but how available is that knowledge to the congregation? Is there a social stigma that will go along with it? Tacitly, in our heart of hearts, there are those among us that are happy that the poor can’t brush elbow with our kids.
Which brings me to the subject of honesty. How can we set up a safe place for honesty? Most of us that live in a dissonant state know that if people really knew what we believed and thought, we would be judged and found lacking.
So let’s be honest – we ALL have those thoughts. We all have some thoughts and beliefs that are not quite up to the high and lofty ideals that we profess with out mouths. We all are human. None of us really and truly live up to all of our ideals. Let’s be honest. We are flawed. I think it’s worse for us to not admit that brokenness than it is for us to not live up – to not be perfect. Yep, that’s the up and down of it.