Quick to listen

Nov 22, 2021 Michael Bishop listening

I’m sure you were also disappointed to hear the outcome of World Rugby’s investigation into Rassie Erasmus’ video – the one he made following South Africa’s loss in the first test against the British Lions earlier this year. From what I had read recently it sounded like the committee agreed with much of his criticism of the referee and it appeared that Erasmus had not actually leaked the video himself, so there was little likelihood of him being found guilty of any charges.

Clearly I was reading the wrong articles! And so, like many South Africans, I was stunned by the outcome and the punishment handed down. I’ve now made an effort to read articles from elsewhere in the world as well as the statement made by the referee (which shares some of his own pain through all of this) and it is clear that there are many views on what did or didn’t happen and the appropriateness of World Rugby’s response.

There will still be an appeal process and much more writing and speculating will take place. I still feel aggrieved on behalf of Erasmus and Siya Kolisi, but I’m also conscious of how quickly something like this can expose the confirmation bias to which we’re all subject. We prefer to talk to people who share our perspectives and we’d rather read articles that support our views, all of which entrenches our opinions, making it harder and harder to ever get us to see things through someone else’s eyes.

Then, the social media algorithms feed us more and more of the same content and the societal consequences are a real problem. When last, for example, did you heartily agree with a statement from a political party that you oppose, or with something said by someone of a different faith? When last was the team playing against your side robbed by the ref?

In his letter to the church, James offers us sound advice for navigating all of this – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) Careful listening to different perspectives is a nation-building skill. We don’t all need to agree, but we do need to work hard to really hear and understand.

But I still hope Rassie wins his appeal :)