"Its not a gift, it is merely technique." Ask any artist of charcoal or pencil, and you will hear this statement in regards to what many people call, "shading." Basically, its the ability to gradually move from a black to white without obvious steps of gradation. A snooty word for it is "Chiaroscuro". That's about the only thing I remember from my Art Education degree.
But truly, with enough time and patience a student can easily learn the right cross-hatching patterns to create such a smooth well-blended surface to compete with any renown Master. I believe this so much that in my private lessons, I will spend hours teaching anyone the proper rendering of sphere on a table. Ultimately, if you can shade a sphere correctly, you can make any object appear realistic in regards to light.
In American popular culture, the ability of blending black and white to an indistinguishable gray has almost become a masterful value that is been heightened to virtuosity. Let me explain. In any opinion on a subject matter, it seems that a person is only seen as tolerable when a position of neutrality is given. This is what I am calling, "Gray". Sadly, its almost a race between parties to this punchline. I am not talking about compromise or settling differences, I am issuing in the thought that the party itself will not value its own position, but will move directly to a position of 'no conflict'. By doing this, the end result is not a conclusion of sorts, but a confusion. Neither positions can distinguish from where they came.
Here's a simple example: In my circles it is not difficult to hear of doctrinal distinctions. Chaplains must work with varying denominations and world religions. Yet, in many instances, when discussions arise about differences many (not all) want to make sure that a 'peaceable' solution is met quickly. Thus, a gravitation to the middle or Gray. There is no doubt in my mind, that many of the Chaplains mean well and quite possibly are avoiding an explosive or divisive discussion. Yet, what if this becomes the norm on a day in and day out discussion. Would the Chaplains value their personal doctrinal positions or will they gravitate to the center, where it seems more virtuous to uphold the ambiguity of what we believe? My fear would be that years would pass and the 'overly valuing of the middle' would become our doctrinal position, and we would forget what truly makes us distinct.
Of course, think about how this plays out into your life. Think about your convictions on homosexuality, your convictions on life in the womb, your convictions on views of history, your convictions on gender roles, your convictions on competing religions..etc.
Bottomline: Does God want us to have differences of opinion without any foundation reason to support them? Is Christ honored, when we race to mutual agreement when facts and convictions have been blurred beyond recognition? On the opposite side, can we hold a position firmly without destroying the unity of the Church? How do you know when a position should be taken so strongly as to cause division?