Grace in Disagreements

graceBut respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced unhealthy disagreement?
  • When have you experienced healthy disagreement?
  • Would you identify yourself as an avid confronter, avoiding confronter, or assessing confronter?

Receive It. Disagreements usually include some kind of rebuttal, which involves an argument with proof. Perhaps a television courtroom scene comes to mind. Rebuttals can be driven by anger or they can be dry and boring, but when a rebuttal is God-driven, it will be driven by truth and love, because God-driven rebuttals are also God-directed. God wants us to know him. That means we need to ask questions and seek his answers. God isn’t intimidated by your questions. He wants to reveal himself to you, and it’s through your dialogue with him in search for answers that you will find and become more intimate with him. Unlike a court case, you won’t look for cold facts; there is nothing cold about God. When you’re authentically seeking God’s truth, you will most certainly find facts, but they will be through God’s warmth of mercy, grace, and love. Because God created you for relationship with him, and growing relationships are thriving with life, the proof you find will be very much alive. In our tolerance-driven world, it’s tempting to accept everyone’s beliefs, no matter how misguided or false they are, out of respect, but accepting who a person is and what she believes isn’t the same thing. Respecting what a person believes equally to the person isn’t respect at all. When you accept and respect someone, you’re invested in his or her life, which means you should, at times, ask questions and have tough discussions. That’s what you do in order to find truth with God. He’s not intimidated. Because you’re standing on his truth, as you let him lead, you don’t need to be intimidated either. Know truth. Always seek truth, and your rebuttal will be God-driven in content, approach and timing.

Live It. Gather evidence in the next 90 seconds. Write down everything you can think of that reveals life. How do you know you’re alive? How do you know the world around you is alive? Think big, and think small. The greatness of God is in the details.

Listen with Respect

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxHow do you know what you think you know? It’s amazing how many times we jump to conclusions. We hear something through a third party, or we overhear a part of a conversation, or we hear something in the way we want to hear it and insist we know the intention behind it. We fill in the gaps between what someone actually said to make the entire story into what we want it to be instead of what it actually is. We omit the parts that contradict what we want to believe, and we ever-so-slightly embellish those areas that emphasize our points.

It’s important to go to the source, then listen with respect. Listening with respect isn’t the same as listening for ammunition. It’s listening for truth. It’s giving the person time to talk. It’s asking clarifying questions and briefly summarizing or restating every now and then to insure what you’re hearing is the same as what the person is trying to communicate. It’s listening more than you talk. It’s setting aside your personal agenda for the common good of the relationship. It’s putting others above self.

Active listening is a developed skill. It takes practice. Most of us talk much more than we listen. Even if you’re a quiet person, you can’t quickly take yourself off the hook on this one, because a quick word count comparing what you say and what you hear isn’t the same as active listening. Active listening involves investment in a relationship, which means you need to respond in order to show the person your respect. You need to engage, asking questions and restating the basics.

Listening with respect doesn’t assume you agree with everything being said. It’s not nearly as much about what is said as who is saying it. God instructs us to respect one another. It’s clear by the standards and expectations he sets that not every behavior, belief, and attitude should be respected, revered, accepted, or tolerated. But we don’t throw the person out with the behavior. It difficult to listen with respect when the person has done something we don’t respect, especially when we find out a person we’ve previously looked up to has gone against biblical principles he or she has previously personally revered and taught. However, it’s not about how we feel like responding. It’s about how God instructs us to respond. And there’s no doubt he commands respect among his followers.

To whom do you need to listen with respect today? Invite the conversation. Let God build your faith by trusting him through the process. He will guide you through what you think is impossible.

Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family… (1 Peter 2:17)

Coping with Criticism

miami_package_feelthehealdetox“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” (Aristotle)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

If you’re not encountering criticism, you’re not building relationships, because relationships should involve value-driven discussions and daily living, which will cause friction among individuals. Of course, the friction should be handled in God-honoring ways. We should respect one another even when we disagree, but how often do we think respecting each other is refusing to disagree? How God-honoring are we when we’re on the receiving end of the criticism? Do we take it personally and have difficulty as we think someone no longer likes us, or do we callously respond as if we don’t care because we’re going to be who we are regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us?

What do you learn from the following verses?

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too. (Galatians 6:1)

In everything you say and do, remember that you will be judged by the law that makes people free. So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. (Romans 14:1)

God certainly gave his children guidelines for criticizing others. We must be loving, gentle, and merciful. We are not excused from criticism; we are simply directed to criticize within God’s standards with his provision. We are to accept and respond to criticism in the same way—within God’s standards—even when people criticizing us are not adhering to the same standards. Just because another Christ-follower is bending God’s rules does not make it okay for us to bend God’s rules, thus, fighting fire with fire.

We cope with criticism with the same standards by which we’re to give criticism.

  • Be loving—by God’s standards.
  • Be gentle—by God’s standards.
  • Be merciful—by God’s standards.
  • Be forgiving—by God’s standards.

Responding to criticism by God’s standards is not the same as hiding feelings. It’s setting aside feelings for truth. God gave us feelings to enhance experiences not to distort the truth of a situation. Let God reveal the truth of a situation. You don’t need to know the person’s motives. You don’t need to know how the person will respond. All you need to know is…God. God is truth, and when you invite and trust him to guide, your motives will become God-driven and your responses will become God-guided. You will cope with criticism with God and for God. He is at the center of your life and your relationships, including criticism. Let him lead from the center.

When People Are Wrong

titleSometimes people will notice a difference in you as a Christian, but they won’t completely “get it.” Because they don’t understand or relate, they’ll describe it as it makes sense to them.

The king said to David, “I’ve heard that you have the spirit of the gods in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom.” (Daniel 5:14)

Well, close. Not exactly “the spirit of the gods.” A few verses later, Daniel gives credit to the Most High God. He doesn’t lecture the king or openly tell him he’s wrong. He maintains respect and dignity for the king while honoring God.

We don’t have to clash in harsh disagreement with people, even when we find error. We can be more patient and gracious than that. Sure, we want to correct people, but there are ways to convey truth without demeaning someone. After all, who pays attention to the content of what someone says when that person is slapping and berating them with words? Not me.

Have (and show) more respect – for yourself, others, and God.

Response to Emotions

jesus-weptJesus wept. (John 11:35)

His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus wasn’t caught off guard. His emotions weren’t out of control. He simply wept. He felt. He expressed those feelings.

And so did the people around him after he wept. They certainly had a variety of responses:

  • The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:36)
  • Some of them said, “Couldn’t He who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37)
  • Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days.” (John 11:39, following Jesus commanding the stone of the tomb be removed)

We respond differently to situations, as well as to the way others respond to those same situations. We declare people are too sensitive or justified. We’re surprised by how well or poorly we think they’re handling something. We have our own emotions to sift through, and our emotions affect our response to others’ emotions.

Be careful. Emotions are great companions but terrible leaders. They enhance life, but they don’t run life. Don’t give them the power and control they don’t deserve, either in your own life or your assessment of others.

Stories

Anyone who met my dad has a story about him. And he met a lot of people. He saw lots of people on a regular basis. But he also made friends with people he knew for a short time. He nearly always went away from the interaction with a story about the person’s life, a bit of news, or an odd connection he’d discover about something or someone they had in common. My dad was always searching for and collecting stories, connecting the dots.

(I sometimes wonder what stories people who had short encounters with him took with them, and what they shared with others. Like the guy outside Macy’s in Manhattan. Did he go to work and say, “I had the strangest conversation today with a country boy who was standing outside Macy’s while his wife and daughter shopped. He looked completely out of place but acted as if him being there and saying hi to people as they rushed by was absolutely normal.”)

For as much as he talked and shared stories, he listened well. He had absorbed a lot of information throughout his life. Like all of us, some of it was probably useless, but I was often surprised at how what I thought was a useless fact, brought up at just the right time, resonated with someone just enough to make a connection.

Maybe that was the point: connections. Dad rarely started a conversation out of the blue. He listened for springboards, bouncing off what someone else would say. People remember him because of his stories, but the stories stuck because he engaged people. He went along with the flow of the conversation, not trying to force it but simply using it to journey with someone, whether it was outside a department store in New York City, during biweekly treatments, or over coffee before the sun was up.

People were important to him. People often listened, because he listened to others. He collected stories, then wove them into others’ stories. If he was in a crowd with someone who seemed to be talking just to hear herself/himself, he wouldn’t engage. (In fact, you might even catch him rolling his eyes and moving his hands as if to say, “Blah, blah, blah. Will this chatter ever stop?”) Dad shared lots of words, but if the words themselves were the goal, he was out. If the interaction between two people was the goal, he was in.

Too often, we have an agenda to sharing our stories and knowledge. We want other people to know what we know. We want to share what’s going on in our lives. But the best way to do that is to listen to what’s going on with others. That’s when the dots begin to show up, the dots that are similar to our own, the dots we can connect.

And if we can’t connect the dots with others, what’s the point?

If we don’t connect the dots, it’s just a lot of “blah, blah, blah.”

Must Respect Be Earned?

respect-1I’ve heard it often recently:

He’ll have to earn my respect.

I refuse to respect someone who does that.

Just because someone’s in a certain position doesn’t mean I have to respect him or her.

I get it. It’s difficult to respect someone who is behaving badly, refuses to show respect to you or someone else, or seems to have severe character flaws.

But…

if we wait until people prove they deserve respect before we extend respect will we ever have respect for anyone? Who actually deserves respect (if we’re fully aware of everyone’s motives, thoughts, and attitudes)? On what standards do we base our respect? Don’t we all somewhat use our own standards? What’s important for one person to display is low on the priority list for someone else. One person sees assertiveness and outspokenness as important, while another sees patience and humility as essential. When we pit one quality or behavior against another, we fail to see the benefits something we personally don’t respect might have in specific situations. Instead of pitting qualities against each other, we might be better off seeing them on a sliding continuum. Then, the most important quality is the ability to discern where to be on that sliding continuum in different situations.

We don’t have to admire and fully support someone to extend respect to him or her as a human being. Respect isn’t unconditional acceptance. Respect is common decency. Respect isn’t supporting actions and attitudes that oppose our own beliefs. Respect is stepping outside a situation briefly enough to see that we all have flaws, and we can communicate in spite of them. Respect isn’t letting the bad stuff slide by unchecked. Respect is knowing how to approach people in productive conflict.