Fool’s Choice

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James 1:19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – My dad often said we have one mouth and two ears, meaning we should listen twice as much as we speak.  We listen because the other party might be right.  It happens.  But being “slow to speak” does not mean we do not speak at all.   The other party might be wrong.  It also happens.  And if the stakes are high (not trivial), it is crucial that we do speak up.  A true friend does not withhold the truth, even if it may hurt.  But how we speak the truth (in love, gentleness and respect) is just as crucial.

Silence Matters – Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

The Fool’s Choice – The mistake most of us make when dealing with things that matter is that we mistakenly believe the choice is between telling the truth and keeping a friend (not making an enemy), between candor and kindness.  But when it comes to risky, unpopular, controversial or emotional issues (where the stakes are high), skilled (brave?) people find a way to get all of the relevant information (from all parties) out into the open.  They dialogue (taking part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem).

Remaining silent, will rarely resolve any issue.  People skilled at dialogue do not remain silent, and they do their best to make it safe for everyone to share in the dialogue.  Even when the other’s views appear at odds with their own beliefs.  Those unskilled at dialogue, if they do not remain silent, will resort to outright attacks (sarcasm, caustic comments, verbal attacks) or subtle manipulation and passive-aggressive behavior (innuendo, playing the martyr, body language).

We begin with differing opinions, beliefs and history.  Whether we remain silent or we attack  the truth is rarely revealed and we are not being a true friend. (Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.)

Fight or Flight, As Long As I Am Right?

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Romans 12:9-10Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:14-16Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. (NIV 1984)

Romans 12:17-18Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV 1984)
Romans 12:21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV 1984)
Colossians 4:6Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV 1984)
Ephesians 4:14-15Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (NIV 1984)

 

My Musings – Society (having the same root, more or less, as social) appears to be becoming anything but social (can we still call it social media?).  Why is it that as civilization becomes more and more polarized, it is becomes less and less civil?  How can we restore social to society and civil to civilization?  First, a couple thoughts from other.

  • Fear, Hate and Disagreement – Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle [views, opinions, beliefs], you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe [say] or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. – Rick Warren
  • Crucial Conversations – A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

It is okay to hold opposing views.  It is okay to care passionately about those views.  But because the stakes are high (relationships that we care just as passionately about), we must handle these conversations well.  People can and do disagree about important issues.  Because they feel passionately about their own views and beliefs, emotions can run high.  As a result, how we disagree matters (stakes are high) a lot.

One can either digress into threats (fight), revert to silent fuming (flight) or speak openly, honestly and effectively. The question is, when it matters most, are we at our worst (fight or flight and ineffective) or at our best (open, honest, caring and effective)?  One can handle them poorly (fight) and face the consequences.  One can walk away (flight) and face the consequences.  Or one can handle them well (open and honest) and minimize or avoid the consequences altogether.

The irony is, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well and the more likely the consequences will be broken relationships. Being passionate in our beliefs and being compassionate with those of opposing beliefs are not mutually exclusive. Passion need not result in polemic behavior and compassion need not result in compromised beliefs.

Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.

Not every conversation, not every issue is crucial.  But sometimes what is trivial to one, is of the utmost importance to the other.  For example, in 1968 and into 1969, talks to end the Vietnam nearly did not even get started over disagreements (lasting ten weeks) over the shape of the conference table.  Trivial to some, crucial to others.  Ultimately, however, the stakes (peace – the objective of everyone at the table) were very high.

Many times, there is no absolute right or wrong answer, except to the parties who cannot agree.  At other times there is an absolute right and wrong, with someone being absolutely wrong and no way of changing their mind. We cannot control what others view as crucial.   What we can control is how we engage.  We may still end up disagreeing, but we need not be disagreeable.  By the same token, we need not agree to be agreeable.

My Advice – Do not allow passion to extinguish your compassion.  Do not allow compassion to compromise your passion.  The truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue.

 

 

 

Do Not Neglect

Nehemiah 10:39 – “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

My Musing – While this verse is talking about physical provision for the temple, we often neglect God’s house in another way. Failing to faithfully attend worship services and fellowship with other believers is a way that we neglect God’s house.

My Advice – Make it your habit to attend church regularly and to associate often and freely with other believers.