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Ron's Reflections

Retiring Professor Ron Pyle shares his top relationship lessons 

His title is professor of communication studies, but Ron Pyle is really Whitworth's relationship expert. Pyle has taught generations of students, as well as faculty and staff, about relationships – both communication's role in fostering them and what the Christian faith teaches about them. Chosen 18 times by the senior class as a Most Influential professor, Pyle has had a remarkable impact on students. He has counseled and married countless Whitworth couples, and many alumni consider him a dear friend. As Pyle readies to retire this May, we asked him to share a few more words of wisdom with us. Following are some of the most important lessons Pyle has learned and taught in his 33 years of service to Whitworth.

1. Relationships are of supreme importance. We are created for relationship with God, with others, and with all that God creates. The first chapters of Genesis describe how God fashions land and seas, sun and moon and stars, the plants and the animals. All of this marvelous creativity was pronounced "good." In the creation narratives, there is only one thing that God declares "not good" and that is relational isolation.

2. Listening is the most Christ-like communication event in which humans engage. True, deep listening requires us to do what Jesus did – to set ourselves aside so that we can receive others. The result of Christ-like listening is that people are invited into their God-given identity as persons who are loved, important, dignified and valued.

Later, when Jesus came to be with us, Matthew records the moment when Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:36-40). Love God and love others; both commands are relational. My almost unbelievable privilege has been to devote my entire adult life to teaching and learning about how to live in God-given relationship.

3. Empathy and humility are rich soil for growing relationships. Empathy is our best attempt to understand another's thoughts and feelings. Some degree of empathy is enabled because of our shared humanity. Other dimensions of empathy can only be realized as we walk with each other in relationship. Humility confesses that, as 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror." Because we do not possess unobstructed access to all truth, we need each other. Our view of God, each other, ourselves, our academic disciplines and the cosmos around us is richer, more nuanced and more complete when we share our lives with others.

4. The model of Jesus invites us to give our lives away to others. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul writes, "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." This is my prayer for Whitworth's future. By God's grace, may Whitworth continue to be a place where students, staff and faculty embrace our separate callings with excellence, imagination and passion. May we walk in humility as we continue to discover the beauty and complexity of our fields of study. May we teach each other with insight, patience and wisdom. But more than all we teach and share, may we live in love and give our lives to one another as a response to God's love for us.


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