From the time my girls were little, I hoped other adults and mentors would speak into their lives with intention, truth, and compassion. Why? Because kids listen differently on the nonparent channel, particularly through certain seasons of their lives.
I knew some of my teachings would be affirmed by others. Kids grow weary of hearing the same thing repeated by their parents. They will tune them out or lessen the weight some words have. Someone else can say similar words, and it is suddenly a great or novel idea. I can’t remember a time that actually bothered me. I wasn’t offended that one of my kids listened to someone else instead of me when we were saying something similar. I was just glad they were listening.
What about the people who didn’t say something I had been saying, perhaps even contradicted it? There are times in parenting that it was frightening, but those were exceptions. For the most part, I knew it was broadening perspective and experiences. I knew the world was much bigger than I could represent. They needed other perspectives.
We all do.
Kids listen differently on the nonparent channel.
That same phrase came to me recently but in a different context. I was reminded just how important it is to tune into other channels at times. We need to step out of our echo chambers. It doesn’t mean we end up incorporating everything we hear. That wouldn’t be wise. Just because we listen to a news source with a different slant or read an author that shares different core values doesn’t mean we completely abandon our own. But we seem so threatened by “them” and affirmed by “us.” It just seems easier to stay in our bubbles unless we are lashing out and lobbing accusations and spewing hatred toward others. I think our “us” can be equally as threatening. Each of us can be a threat to ourselves when we refuse to broaden our perspective. We don’t have to cherry pick truth and huddle in a corner to protect it. Truth is stronger and more resilient than that. We can open our eyes and ears to a lot—some will affirm, some will defy, some will discredit, some will prune, some will rebuild. We don’t have to leave humility behind and wear our defensiveness as a weapon that harms others and affirms the wrong values in us. We are hardening our own hearts.
My heart broke when I saw a friend’s post. It claimed, “In one year, the far [INSERT RIGHT OR LEFT HERE] has normalized: [INSERT EXAGGERATED LIST OF CLAIMS HERE]. Wake up, before it’s too late, you ignorant fools.”
Here’s my challenge:
- Please don’t call people ignorant fools, especially in a sweeping claim on social media. It’s hurtful and shameful, and it reflects more on the person who claims it than those who it is intended to harm. Are some people fools? Yes. Are some people ignorant? Yes. But these words should not be used to shame others.
- Flip the script. Whether in politics or many hot-button topics, we can find some of the same awful behavior on both sides. We might differ on an issue, but if we’re honest about it, the awful ways we approach each other are very similar from either side of the debate. Hate and disrespect are unnecessary and unexcused no matter how we rationalize our stance. Walk away before you declare “Enough is enough” and spew hate. You might differ in content from the people you disagree with, but you might be their twin in process, the way you handle yourself and approach others. Instead, try to understand another perspective. There are rational, intelligent people on both sides of just about any debate. Instead of judging the fringe, engage with the reasonable. Listen with the intent to learn, not to change the other person. If you sit on the edge of your seat, poised to pounce, you might feel as if you win, but you will lose an opportunity to learn.
- Refuse to dehumanize people. Engaging with people is not like sorting the garage to determine what stays and what goes. We absolutely need to discern, but wisdom isn’t proud or harsh. It take more maturity and faith to respond with self-control than to let vile churn inside and eventually spew onto others. The hospitality of welcoming others into our lives is typically peaceful and compassionate. While walking away from others can be difficult, when it’s necessary for healthy boundaries, it can be done with respect instead of violent attitude and words.
And for those who follow God, please acknowledge the responsibility you have. Take time to deepen your faith. We have a lot of resources in teachers and leaders, but none of them replace God. Never become so gullible that you unknowingly trust someone without filtering the broader perspective of character, methods, relationships, and values through the truth and instruction of God’s Word. Never politicize the Christian faith. God is not limited by politics or country. He is not limited by our understanding or comfort. His goals are not America’s goals or a specific church’s goals or an individual’s goals. That’s upside down. Let’s get it right. Let’s get humble. Let’s respond in faith and trust God to correct and grow us.