• What Ever Happened to “Shake the Dust From Your Feet?”

    Words of wisdom from Scott Dannemiller, aka The Accidental Missionary on how to deal with those you disapprove of:

    Recall what Jesus told his closest buddies the first time he sent them out. He told them to heal, cure, and comfort, proclaiming God’s name along the way. And he added,

    “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt 10: 14)

    Sounds harsh, right? But he doesn’t add, “And leavest thou a flaming bag of poo on their doorstep, and drape their olive trees in Charmin.”

    Jesus is telling us to let it go. Self-righteous outrage is not worth the trouble. If judgment is to come, let Him be the sword. Meanwhile, save your words. They hold little value anyway.

    But . . . but . . . even Jesus got angry, right? Sure. And let’s look at what Jesus got angry about:

    A “hangry” Jesus got mad at a fig tree when he walked by and noticed it bore no fruit. He overturned tables like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, outraged with the money lenders turning a temple into a strip mall. He expressed outrage toward anyone who would harm a child, sounding a bit Tony Soprano-like when he said they would be better off sleeping with the fishes.

    Got that? Jesus got angry about hunger not fed, the commercialization of the holy and harm to children. If what you are angry about is one of those things, fine. But if you’re angry about any of the usual hobby horses that drive conflict with and in the church, Jesus says to let it go.

    Don’t yell and scream. Don’t appeal your case to the powers that be. Don’t explain your position over and over and over again to people who have already rejected it. Don’t go to war with those who reject you, your message or God himself. Leave it for God to deal with. Even if you think it’s an idiotic way to do things.

  • When You Can’t Agree

    It is one thing to oppose what you think is messed up; it’s a whole other thing to be and live the alternative. ~ Jim Palmer

    At some point, you have made your best case and your opponent has made their best case. You still disagree and are certain your opponent fundamentally misunderstands reality. Any further discussion will quickly devolve into “unuh”, “uhhuh” levels of discourse. Repeating the same set of arguments over and over is a good sign that you’ve entered into this stage.
    When this happens, resist the urge to have the last word and wrestle your opponent into submission. Instead, devote yourself to living out your vision of the truth.
    Trying to explain and argue your vision of God’s truth to someone else too easily becomes a substitute for taking action. Often, before God is able to use you, needs you to give up the arguing.
    Stop trying to win the approval of your opponents. Instead, focus your thoughts and energy on creating something which is good, in and of itself, and not just better than the way you have rejected. There’s the off chance that you and your opponent with find your way into unity.
    But that’s not why you do it. You do it because God does not reveal his truth to us so we can win arguments. He reveals his truth so we can live out of it. This is how we become great. It’s how we stand tall as the trees, stronger than the storms and with a beauty that all of heaven loves to see.

  • conflict-final-3

    Learning to avoid conflict

    For some people the problem isn’t tolerating conflict; its learning to avoid conflict that’s the challenge!  Conflict is part of life, but its important not to allow unneeded and unproductive conflict to become a regular part of life either.  Even when it’s necessary and productive, it’s not fun!

    As a rule, if the conflict is triggered by your emotional state (I’m crabby) or an emotional reaction (you’re pissing me off), it’s unneeded.  If there is an ongoing problem or pattern that is upsetting, there are many much more productive ways to find a solution than letting your emotions lead you into conflict.

    Also, if you are walking into a conflict knowing what’s going to be said and with no realistic hope of resolution, do what you can to skip it.  Maybe the time isn’t right or the best solution hasn’t presented itself you.  Or maybe its one of those things which will always be a sore spot that you just have to deal with.  But conflict with no hope of resolution is generally pointless.  Just avoid it.

    How to avoid it?  Smiling and nodding is a good go-to method.  (“That’s an interesting approach.  I hadn’t thought of it that way before.“)  As is just admitting your own struggle: (“I’m really irritable right now.” or “This is always a sore spot for me and I’m not up for getting into it.”)  Asking to revisit the issue later can also be helpful.  (“I’m sorry, but I’m just not up for getting into this right now.  Can I come and find you so we can discuss it when I’m feeling better?”)

    Sometimes peace isn’t the destination you’re headed towards.  When that’s the case, simply keeping what peace you can salvage is the healthy, feel-good way to go!.

  • denial

    Learning to tolerate conflict

    There are many people who believe themselves to be peacemakers because they avoid conflict at all costs.  But peacemakers don’t avoid conflicts, they walk through them in order to find peace – if not an actual resolution.  To be a peacemaker, you must learn to tolerate conflict – even when that means having someone mad at you!  (This doesn’t mean tolerating abuse from someone who is upset.  Leave the room, the building, the area or whatever  you need to do to get away should you find yourself involved in a conflict with someone who is being abusive.  And don‘t apologize for it!)

    To start learning to tolerate conflict, first try speaking up for yourself in a situation where you would normally keep quiet.  Sometimes we are so conflict adverse, we hesitate to even mention our preferences or opinions.  Start challenging yourself to just speak up for yourself in little things like food or entertainment preferences.  Make up an opinion if you don’t actually have one!  Just learn to say what you think without being afraid of causing offense or disagreement.

    Of course, the reason people hate conflict is because you can’t just say your piece and have everyone jump up and down with praise and agreement.  (My preferred reaction to whatever I say!)  People will push back and this is where we can lose it.  But if you usually back down at this point, just take a deep breath and state your case calmly.  Listen, pause to think, respond.  If you are not used to conflict you will almost certainly find that you are better at dealing with it than you thought you would be.  But you don’t get to peace by backing down.  Be willing to walk through the discomfort of disagreement – it is your chance to learn to make peace from discord!

  • political_labels

    Looking for the Good – People Edition

    Finding and explaining what’s wrong with people is a great past-time.  It’s fun, easy and makes you feel better about your life.  It’s the junk food of human relationships!

    Believe it or not, figuring out what’s good about people is a great past-time as well.  It’s challenging, satisfying and makes you feel better about the world.  It’s the gourmet meal of human relationships.

    There are always people in our life who cause us to yearn for a delete button to use on them.  It could be our child’s principal or some politician or your own family.  Instead of just letting them drive you nuts over and over, make yourself look for something you could genuinely like about the person.  Turn it into a game if you need to.  Some people need you to think of multiple things to like about them just so you can stand their existence.  Well, guess what?  They aren’t going anywhere, so you might as well learn to like something about them!

  • Black-White Conversations We’re Afraid To Have

    Northwestern University just put out a study which found that white people avoid dealing with black people or discussions of race out of fear of doing something which will cause them to be accused of bigotry. This is probably one of those “We need researchers to tell us this?” things.

    As many of my readers know, I am married to an African American man, so we’ve had many of those conversations which most white people avoid like the plague. I’ll just say that it’s been interesting.

    Over time, I’ve come to see the relationship between white Americans and black Americans as being like a bad marriage. Neither side trusts the other, each attributes the worst possible motivations to anything the other side does, neither is willing to listen to the other but continually demands that their concerns be taken seriously, etc., etc. The solution to a bad marriage generally requires the two parties to stop being so self defensive, listen to each other, avoid responding negatively at all costs, be willing to do the right things for the relationship irregardless of what the other person may or may not do, etc. I believe that it will take the same sorts of actions between white and black Americans to actually move past the distrust and hostility which we generally deal with each other with.

    I think that one of the biggest problems with the black-white relationship is that we fail to understand or appreciate how things look from the other’s perspective and then insist on assigning the worst possible motivations to what the other group does (or does not do). I believe that if we are willing to start making a real effort to understand the other group’s perspective (not necessarily agree with – just understand that POV as sincere and real), it would allow us to stop being so defensive and hostile with each other.

    I bring this and this study up because my husband recently shared an idea he has about just the sort of “white persons inadvertently messes up, black people go ballistic” interaction which seems to have made white people so nervous that they avoid race at all costs. Continue reading