Social media is rife with everyone posting their two cents, with each person trying to shore up their view in the wittiest, the most poetic and the most hard-hitting manner. People are weighing in on issues, with or without knowledge of the topic, oftentimes on the attack with decimation as their objective.
I have myself been at the point where I felt the need to strike with unnerving accuracy the most obnoxious of irritants, and sometimes unfortunately impaled with great severity the most innocent bystanders. Sometimes the intensity of our approach is from a place of hurt, and from being tired of feeling helpless and unheard.
Sometimes it's because we are so personally invested in the issue that it's difficult to calmly listen as another person disregards and dismisses it as trivial and invalid. Sometimes listening to another's perspective feels like being forced to conform to their stance on an issue.
In my freshman year in college, in a new country and out of my Jesus bubble I began to encounter the shocking truth - people have different views from me! My response to it was to barrel at the opposing view like an enraged porcupine, Tasmanian devil, Toro Bravo mash up. I thought I was "doing good" because I was arguing on issues related to one's walk with the Lord.
I would wrap up my convictions in Bible verses and personal experience and start pounding them on people like a little Martin Luther trying to start a revolutionary with my own version of the 95 Thesis.
I strutted my knowledge and felt good when I got persons to surrender to my point, and I fumed when they didn't. I carried around pride and self righteousness like the mantle of a martyr. I wanted people to live for God but many times I just got offended or offensive.
I acted like a porcupine on edge with prickly predispositions at every point of contact, or like a blowfish I swelled with pride, puffing up at anything I believed to be wrong.
I also tried the other extreme of saying nothing at all, in a pathetic effort to keep peace and not get myself in gratuitous conversations, but that didn't work either because there were honestly times that someone needed to share the truth.
Sometimes I was correct but that wasn't the issue. I may be right; my view could be correct; the conviction the Lord gave could help another person draw closer to Him, but what good was it if the person coming to me felt more like they were being stabbed and poked in order to be persuaded?
These heated debates felt worthless. Who wins at the end of a tongue lashing? Who feels the need to concede after quarreling vehemently about opposing notions? Who decides to come to the cross after you hammer away at the unbeliever or new Christian? Countless times in a discussion it was the other person's patient response to my tirade that helped me to lay down my quills and calmly state what was on my heart.
While I have grown in this area I recently realized how much further I needed to grow in order to limit the number of times persons left discussions with me stuck by my attitude and harsh words. So I confessed this remnant area of pride and prayed the Lord would help me to change.
Well, in true coach form the Lord decided to allow me to face every form of opposing view that got me rustled - all in the space of three days. He strolled right into the undisciplined areas of my life and went to work.
Everything that I am sensitive about showed itself in every relationship - from work to family. It came small first, and then it came a little more intense, and before I could feel good about myself - or maybe because I was - offense after offense came at me and I couldn't do anything but fall apart and jab at each person.
Then God slowly began to show me how I was forgetting how He balanced convicting me of my sin with grace and mercy, and that I needed to do the same. I wasn't winning anyone over by arguing.
On the contrary I was distancing myself from them and losing more than just the argument. My knowledge and my pride were restricting me from being able to engage people.
We all have these opinions, convictions, beliefs and viewpoints. We all know what we believe and feel able to convince another with the depth of our knowledge. But it was Paul who said ....we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 1 ESV).
No one wants to approach a porcupine, and puffer fishes only look commanding. So lay down your pride and deflate your ego, and remember that "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." (Richard Branson)
Stacy-Ann Smith - is a child therapist. She is involved with youth and children's ministry and has a heart to work with young women teaching them the ways of the Lord. She serves as a board member of the Kingston and St. Andrew Foster Parent's Association. You can read her blogs at aleatoires85.wordpress.com
Stacy-Ann Smith's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/stacy-ann-smith.html