Hot politics, soft words, is that even possible? My Christianity tells me don’t be argumentative. It is a long slog toward practicing 2 Timothy 2:23-24, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels and the Lord’s servant must not quarrel, instead he must be kind to everyone able to teach not resentful.”
In the past, I’ve tried, oh, how I’ve tried to “discuss” in a calm fashion, but soon my voice rises, my tone gets strident, and before long, I’m yelling, “Don’t tell me to calm down!”
However, over the years, I’ve improved at detachment, or more accurately, I’m better at knowing I don’t need to win every argument. Two things have helped me. Keeping it personal and prayer.
Keeping it personal is a skill I learned in a conflict resolution class years ago. This means, don’t lead with “you” statements. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “People like you are the problem.” Instead, focus on “I” or “me” statements. “I feel hurt.” “That makes me uncomfortable.”
Expressing personal feelings is more disarming than lobbing opinions like grenades. But it’s hard to keep one’s anger in check.
Recently, at a social I was speaking to a stranger who seemed friendly and engaging. We were yakking and laughing it up. Eventually our conversation took a turn into a bad neighborhood. Religion. He stated he was an avowed atheist and said, “I can’t stand Christians. They’re a bunch of hypocritical, control freaks.”
I said, “Gee, that hurts my feelings. I’m a Christian.”
He threw me a bone by saying, “Well, you seem pretty normal.”
Years ago, I would have gone up in a sheet of flame. Now I just share observations in the same tone I’d use for commenting on the weather.
I said “That’s interesting. Our society has grown so much in awareness and acceptance that we know racist or homophobic comments are wrong but somehow people of faith are still targets of blanket statements. I can assure you, I’m not trying to control anybody.”
He laughed (a bit uncomfortably) and I changed the subject. The conversation continued in a much kinder vein as I asked him about his family. Everyone likes talking about their kids and it was a good way to remind myself that no one is a one-dimensional boob.
That last snarky statement brings me to the prayer part.
My pal Winsome reminds me that sarcasm and quarreling never leads to resolution. “Just pray for change, for yourself, and for situations, and let God do the rest,” she said.
God does do the rest, and peace will prevail if I do my part, and in these times of hot politics, soft words are like miracles.
— Email Suzette Standring: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.readsuzette.com. The award-winning author writes for The Patriot Ledger and is syndicated through GateHouse Media.