Can I be honest with you? I guess if you say no, just stop reading and have a good day. If you say yes, keep calm and read on.
(I was starting to write “without getting political” but you can’t really write that anymore because everything is political…)
So, I’m not super outspoken on my personal political position, though it probably wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to be able to figure it out. Without divulging what those are (because they would become a distraction), I wanted to share you with you a pressure I’ve been feeling for quite some time.
I’ve felt this way for a long time, but never more so than now. Because the voices of people and sources that oppose my political position are so boisterous and dominant, I feel that I no longer have permission to share my point of view.
It feels to me that taking a stance on an issue would open me and my family and my church and my livelihood up to unfair attack. I may be wrong. There may not be many, if any who would care about my opinion. But, because the threat looms so large, I haven’t shared.
It appears that only one side of the conversation currently has permission to speak.
Because of this I have found myself looking for places where I can speak and share freely with people who are less likely to attack me. Unfortunately the only places to do that are in circles of people who already agree with me.
This is what Ed Stetzer wrote about in his book “Christians in the Age of Outrage.” The echo chamber of like minded ideas is getting so cacophonous that it’s like everyone is shouting into one of those toy microphones.
This is the real tragedy of today.
We can’t discuss issues anymore. We can’t find the middle ground. Anything resembling discussion is now just arguing talking points from your position. Maybe it has always been that way.
According to Linus, you’re never supposed to talk about religion, politics or the great pumpkin. But, we have to find a way.
I know it’s harder now than ever. It’s hard because, as a society, we don’t deal well with any kind of confrontation. It’s hard because the facts are harder and harder to find. It’s hard because we feel emboldened by social media. It’s hard because the access of information has only served to entrench us in our preconceived notions.
Somehow, we have to learn to disagree with one another. We have to learn how to be able to talk about issues, debate them, disagree on them and even vehemently oppose them without dehumanizing the people who hold them.
Agreement is not a prerequisite for love and acceptance. Dignity is not something we give only to the people we agree with. Respect isn’t something reserved for people who vote the same way you do.
We have believed a ridiculous lie that we should only be around and in relationship with people who agree with us on everything. If not everything, nearly everything.
We have believed the lie that we have a right to part ways with people, end relationships and mistreat people because we disagreed with them on an issue or because we had a problem with how they lived their life.
“Disagreement is not necessarily a reason to head for Splitsville. In fact, a relationship without disagreement is probably too brittle to last. Some of the best human bonds are forged in the fire of disagreement.”Jerry Spinelli
But the truth is, there is still truth. There are still facts. As convenient as it would be to believe in relative truth, it simply does not correlate with reality. There are universal truths that have governed all thriving societies.
The most foundational of those truths is this: we are made in the image of God. And anything made in the image of God deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
“But what about our leaders? They aren’t good examples for us in this!”
You’re right. That’s a true statement. And I agree with you. Many of our leaders on both sides are far too divisive. Yes. Both sides. Not just the other side. My side. Your side.
Unfortunately we can’t change their behavior or tenor. No human being can change another. We can only change ourselves. The truth is, we have the leaders we have because we have all allowed ourselves to be led down this road. Our leaders aren’t going to fix this.
It’s on us.
As Henry Cloud says:
“This is one of the marks of a truly safe person: they are confrontable.”Henry Cloud, Safe People
Blame shifting isn’t going to get us out of this mess. We have to own it. We have to be the kind of people who can be confronted. It doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to disagree. In fact, I think we SHOULD disagree with others. But we should do it with dignity and respect and only do it if we are absolutely committed to being absolutely committed to that person.
Here’s the thing: I have ideas about issues, you have ideas about issues. When those ideas live solely in my own mind, they can be weak and anemic. Even if I think I’m absolutely right, there is likely another side to the issue that I haven’t even thought about. Until I hear the other side, what I believe is only as strong as the level of agreement people have with my idea. But, If I discuss my point of view on an issue with someone who disagrees and a reshape my belief on that idea as a result, I have a belief that is more sustainable.
Are there issues that can never be compromised on? Absolutely. But most issues have some flexibility to them. Not all, but some.
But, let me ask you a question: When was the last time you got someone to change their mind by belittling them for their beliefs?
No matter how wrong what we believe may be, most of us believe what we believe because we think it’s true and right. Not many of us are evil villains who believe what we believe because we are secretly hoping for the destruction of civilization as we know it. We truly believe that what we believe is the truth.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have changed my mind on some big issues over my life. Some of the ideals I’ve held made sense to me until I experienced them more intimately in my life. But, other ideals that have changed have been the result of an honest and open dialogue with people who disagreed with me.
We can’t control our leaders but we can control ourselves.
Before you misread me, I’m not saying to just control your tongue and not speak your mind. But, only speak your mind with the dignity of the other person in mind.
I have never met a single other human being, with whom I agree on everything in life. Not one. Not even my wife. It is a lie to think that I can only love people I agree with. It’s a lie because there is no one I completely agree with on everything and yet I love tons of people.
What if, not matter what happens in an election, we determined to treat every single human being with dignity and respect, even the ones who hold vastly different ideas than we do?
And what if, instead of waiting for someone else to set the example, we became the example for others? What if when people who agree with us belittle and name call those who don’t, we stood up for those they were belittling? And what if we refused to belittle the candidates that other people proudly support? What if we refused to believe everything we see on the news and read in the media? What if we were driven more by relationships with one another than we are by being right, having the loudest voice and holding the most power?
Sometimes it takes a lot of heat to make something moldable. It might take some heated discussion between you and someone you disagree with to get you to open your mind. But when you heat a metal up to extremely high temperatures, all the impurities come out and you have a better, purer metal.
What if a part of the reason we have so many unresilient people these days is because we’ve completely done away with any form of disagreement thinking it was in the best interest of the other person, when in reality, what’s in our best interest is being challenged. We don’t grow without being challenged. We don’t grow without resistance and strain. Maybe we’re not resilient because we’ve never truly been pressed. Resilient means to spring back after being bent or stretched. Like a rubber band that isn’t stretched doesn’t hold anything together, we’re falling apart because we’ve never been stretched. We only have people we agree with us around us.
Have you had a respectful disagreement with someone lately?
What can we do to change things? What are you ideas?