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May I not hope to be heard with candor?

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Those of us who read intuitively often find our attention snagged by aspects of a text that are not necessarily its main trajectory.

This was the case for me when I read William Ellery Channing‘s famous sermon, “Unitarian Christianity,” preached at Jared Sparks‘ ordination.

I was reading along merrily until I read, “May I not hope to be heard with candor?” My attention came to a screeching stop.

Heard with candor?  What does candor have to do with listening?  I thought candor was about speaking?

Off to the dictionary I went.  The first definition was, “the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression.”  Yes, that’s what I expected.

But here’s the second meaning:  “freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality:  to consider an issue with candor.”  Hmmm.  Interesting.  And two obsolete meanings:  kindliness, and purity.

Channing uses this sense of “candor” a few more times throughout the sermon.

I need not express to you our views on the subject of the benevolent virtues….but there is one branch of benevolence which I ought not to pass over in silence….I refer to the duty of candor, charitable judgment, especially to those who differ in religious opinion.

We can hardly conceive of a plainer obligation on beings of our frail and fallible nature, who are instructed in the duty of candid judgment, than to abstain from condemning men of apparent conscientiousness and sincerity, who are chargeable with no crime but that of differing from us in the interpretation of the Scriptures, and differing, too, on topics of great and acknowledged obscurity.

What a helpful concept, particularly in our time, when we have all chosen teams, and lined up on opposite sides of the field, when we listen to our opponents, not with candor, but with prejudice.

Americans value candid expression highly–some might say too highly.  We like people who are “straight-shooters.”  What would it look like if we valued candid listening as much as we value candid speech?


One thought on “May I not hope to be heard with candor?

  1. Pingback: How we believe | nagoonberry

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