Answer Carefully

internet-business-questions-answeredPeople ask a lot of questions. And that is good. As Christians, if we’re not being asked questions, there’s a problem. Either we’re not getting out and about enough, or we’re not approachable enough.

I’m not just talking about questions from people who aren’t Christians. Christians need to ask each other questions, too. But we must be careful answering questions. We don’t have all the answers. Even when we think we have an answer, we need to accept the possibility (and responsibility) of being wrong. That might not be our intent, but it’s always possible.

There is always a motivation behind the question, and it might not be obvious. Questions that might sound like interpretation are more than likely questions of application. People might ask, “What does this mean?” or “What do you think the truth is about…?” But the underlying question is often “What do I do with this?” or “How will you respond to me even if I disagree?”

You can’t know all the implications behind the question, but you can always answer with humility and respect. Speaking the truth is always important, because it is the only firm foundation for the relationship, for you, and for the other person. But speaking the truth always needs to be done in love, which involves respect, patience, kindness, and self-control.

 

Communication and Talking Aren’t The Same

blah-blah-blahSometimes I talk without communicating well.

I know I don’t control someone else’s attention or response, but I can pay attention and respond as I’m talking. After all, talking isn’t the point. Communication is.

I’ve often used the phrase, “But I already told you…” or “I said…,” as if the simple fact that words came out of my mouth secured successful communication.

It doesn’t.

The weight doesn’t completely rest on me, but I need to take communication seriously enough to know that I have some responsibility. I know my motives and my style, so I may think that just saying something to someone or sending an email or text gets the job done. But communication is often less about the content and more about the relationships involved. If I don’t respect the other person through the communication process (and my attitude), what have I gained? What could someone else possibly gained?

The goal of communication is rarely isolated to information.

Communication involves people, so respect, patience, forgiveness, and humility must be a part of it…perhaps even the goal.

 

I told you so.

imagesSaying “I told you so” might get your point across. It might prove you were right and someone else was wrong. It might give you some status…for a moment.

You might feel like you win (and someone else loses, and you’re okay with both). But in reality, “I told you so” is boasting. It drives a wedge between people.

So what if you told someone something and they have now learned the hard way? Isn’t learning the hard way enough? What if, instead of kicking them while they’re down, you reached out a hand of encouragement, helped them dust off, then offered to walk the next few steps together as they limp?

Of course, sometimes staying alongside someone isn’t the most healthy option for either you or the other person. You need to walk separate paths for a while. And if you’re walking separate paths, there’s still no need to say, “I told you so.”

Let them realize it in their own timing. It will stick longer, and you’ll maintain some respect for yourself, and potentially from the other person. After all, would you continually go to someone for advice and help if they constantly remind you how smart they are?

You don’t have all the answers. None of us do. Let’s be humble with what we do know, be willing to grow and change as we discover our misunderstandings, and respect others every step of the way.

A Selfish Perspective

fc707aa0f4ea2a8696bb4e657ac392c2Gas prices started falling, and I was happy about it. So were most people around me. We’d have to spend less to travel and go about our daily business. We’d all have more expendable income, whether for ourselves or the community. The lower gas prices would have ripple effects that could only be good.

Or not.

I then saw a couple of my friends from the coastline who posted about the ill effects of those gas prices. Their friends and families were losing their jobs. There were ripple effects throughout the community, but they weren’t good.

My perspective changed. I could pay an extra couple dimes per gallon in order to help another. I could quit assuming my good deal was a good deal for everyone.

I hope not to purposefully take a selfish perspective. Sometimes, I simply need someone to share another perspective to pull back the curtain on my selfishness.

We all do.

Let’s consider others’ perspectives. We may not agree with everyone, but we can learn, grow, and replace our self-centeredness with humility and compassion.

We Can Disagree with Respect

tumblr_inline_mwf14khrWx1rbgndjWe can have sharp disagreements without sharp words.

I promise you it is possible.

Our preferences, convictions, and “rights” get in the way. We think we have the right to argue for truth with any approach we want. (Reality check: Ephesians 4:15) But a righteous purpose does not justify unrighteous means. We think we have the obligation to stand up for our rights; after all, everyone else gets to voice their opinions; shouldn’t we, too? Jesus wasn’t all that into rights. In fact, there aren’t a lot of rights that come along with being His follower. Sure, there are some really great eternal perks, and we definitely get support, courage, guidance, counsel, and strength in this life, too, but rights?

Confront with respect.

Disagree with respect.

Be willing to listen.

Express your viewpoint with humility and love.

You can have a firm center with soft edges. Otherwise, you’re likely not going to influence people in a way that honors God.

Please don’t hijack my phone: A plea for group texts.

When someone sends a mass email to many, most people blind-cc everyone, so people can’t “reply all” and inundate all the recipients or gain access to their email addresses (and make it easier to get spammed).

When someone sends a mass Facebook message to many, there’s a simple “leave conversation” option.

But when someone sends a mass text, it’s as if a mob of people hijack your phone.

I’m not saying there are not situations that call for a “group conversation” text. For instance, if you’re trying to plan something, such as a family gathering, and it’s best to see each person’s response to make sure everyone is on the same page, go for it. It saves time of trying to convey each person’s response to everyone else who needs to know the details.

However, if you’re simply conveying information, just an “fyi,” please click that little box that says “send as individual conversations.” You still just have to send it one time, but the follow up comes specifically from people who want to reassure you, ask a clarifying question, etc. If someone wants to share their story that relates to your text or catch you up on their life, share the latest piece of gossip, or get into a debate, everyone else doesn’t have to be a part of the conversation.

When you receive a group conversation, there’s nothing you can do to get out of it. Even if you delete the conversation, as soon as another person responds, your phone lights up or vibrates. It’s like sitting in a waiting room and the people on either side of you carry on a conversation around or through you as if you’re not there. They could just as easily move to two empty seats, or ask you to switch places so you can have a little privacy. It’s like someone using a speaker phone so that you loudly hear all the details even though you’re not actually part of the conversation…when it would be just as easy for the person to step away to a less crowded area to chat. It’s like a chat screen constantly fills your computer screen like an annoying pop-up despite you signing up for anything.

All I’m asking is that people consider and respect others around them, whether they’re physically in the same place or simply sharing cyber/cellular space. The nice thing about technology today is the ability to reach out to people with abbreviated messages in a quick timeframe. But we need to consider not just our perspective of sending but also the perspective of others receiving what we send.

Let’s reach out and hand something to someone instead of inundating them with an unsuspecting game of dodgeball.

 

What the Fear of God Has to Do with Bumper Pads

482015125_XSThe fear of God can be a confusing thing. God repeatedly tells us not to be afraid, yet He also says we are to fear Him. Without getting into Hebrew and Greek, which I only know enough to quickly get myself into deep waters, we sometimes make it simple for ourselves by stating fear of God is the same as respect for God. But that’s not truly accurate. Fear (of God) must involve respect, but the two are not interchangeable.

Fear of God is recognizing who He is and who we are in relation to Him. He is a good God who loves and forgives us. He is compassionate, merciful, and loving. He is also just, righteous, jealous, and angry. None of those things are in conflict of one another. None of them can be separated from one another. God has all of those characteristics. We can’t take what we like most about God and make Him into someone we want Him to be. He is sovereign. We can’t compare our own experiences and assumptions of His qualities and project them as truth of who He is.

We are created by Him. He is our authority. We may avoid Him, refuse Him, fear Him, respect Him, or love Him, but our reaction to God doesn’t change Him.

So how can we fear Him in a way that honors Him?

Being scared of God and fearing Him are different. One has something to hide. The other has nothing to hide.

Being scared of God makes us run away. Fearing Him acknowledges who He is and places us in a humble relationship with Him. It exposes us to be able to know Him and receive from Him all He wants to pour into us.

When we walk in His ways, we fear Him. When we fear Him, we walk in His ways.

Fear serves the same purpose as bumper pads in a bowling alley, keeping us out of the gutter.

Keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. (Deuteronomy 8:6)