Calm down and conversate.
I know, telling someone to “calm down” is not the right thing to say. Agitated people will rarely respond to the phrase, and people are, if nothing else, a bit agitated right now. We have been for quite some time.
If we would only dialogue more and diatribe less.
I get it. We have opinions we want to share. We have beliefs of truth. We have a variety of motivations in why we want others to understand, and perhaps agree with, our viewpoint. Let’s assume our motives are pure, and we primarily want to share in order to establish a firm foundation of truth—truth that impacts morality, ethics, justice, relationships, and individual growth and health. (I know assuming motives are pure is a leap, because motivations are widely varied and distorted, but hang with me for a minute.)
Keep in mind, I’m a Christ-follower. That’s a context important to remember, and quite frankly, it’s one motivation for approaching this topic. We Christians are often seen as arrogant, rigid people who try to bully others to believe what we believe. I’m not going to say that behavior doesn’t occur, because I see it a lot. I’m probably harder on my fellow Christians than any other group of people, because the deeper I grow in faith, the more I know God’s character. And Jesus would not do the amount of justifying we do (and to add injury to insult, we quote his words and apply them to contexts that are misplaced. As a reminder, Satan did that, too.).
Am I annoyed? Yes, but I’m more hurt than anything. We are deteriorating our influence and what others see in us as the reflection of God. We need to stop.
I digress, because Christians are not the only people who want to stand on truth. Most everyone has a set a standards they’ve come to believe as true, and they want to share their stories and perspectives with others. If we didn’t want to share with others, how important are the ideals we’ve come to place value in?
Yet we get so offended by someone sharing something we disagree with. Oh, we’re tolerant with some, but there are always groups of people about whom we’ll say, “They can share their ideas until they try to shove them onto me.” Let’s agree: shoving rarely works. But what is perceived as shoving is not always shoving. Sometimes it’s passionate sharing.
We declare we have no right to dictate or project morality onto others. Some cry out, “Oh, yes, we do! What about truth? What about accountability?” Others more calmly proclaim, “But we have to come to some collaborative understanding in order to live alongside each other.”
We are not going to agree on it all. But I am convinced—because of who God is—that we can dialogue with encouragement and keep our diatribes of criticism to a minimum. Yes, we still use critical thinking skills. We still disagree. We still get passionate about our beliefs. But we can do so in encouraging ways instead of destructive ways. We can extend respect and patience. We can persevere with kindness. We can listen with intensity and compassion.
And I believe we must.