When I was a middle school science teacher, I went out of my way to make my classroom a safe place for my kids to learn. My students were not allowed into the classroom until I had looked them in the eye and welcomed them in…not because I didn’t trust them in my room…because it occurred to me that I may be the only one who really saw them that day and told them I was glad to see them and that their presence mattered. In Sassy Massey’s classroom (that was what the students named me) insults and mean-ness were not only not tolerated, I would stop class over them and allow the speaker of the insults the “opportunity” to apologize and over-power their own insults with 3 character compliments for whomever they had insulted. (The boys especially found this to be cruel and unusual punishment.) I also learned early on that raising your voice to get the attention of 35 middle-schoolers was ineffective. They were so accustomed to excessive noise that raising my voice only caused the words to fade into the background of all of the other noise in the life of a 13-year-old. Conversely, if they perceived a secret being discussed in hushed whispers, they were able to redirect their undivided attention to it immediately. I used this observation to my own advantage in class frequently if I found students talking over me. Instead of getting louder, I would get quieter and quieter. I didn’t need to nag them and ask them to please pay attention…I just had to make them want to pursue paying attention by making the truth that I was offering stand out from the noise that surrounded them.
I am brought back to those days of teaching right now. There is a lot of noise out there…and much of it is either untrue, unbeneficial, or both. When you engage in arguments online, all of that energy is wasted. It’s like my kids from my teaching days…the first thing we had to establish each day was that I loved them and that they were safe with me. Then, and only then, could they relax enough to hear any truth from me and learn. They had to see consistency in me from person to person…that I didn’t treat students differently…that it was ok to question and doubt and talk things through…and that they could not get off the hook when it came to thinking. I also had to learn that it was ok for them to struggle with their thoughts on the concepts…when we struggle to understand, we take that knowledge deeper within ourselves…instead of just regurgitating information to be forgotten after a test, we hold onto the concepts because it was harder to come by. (Think about difficult times in your life…how clearly do you remember them?)
What is my point? Well, I guess it’s that there is a lot of hatred and lies being spewed out there. Even if you think what you have to say is true, are you saying it with grace and kindness? Has it already been said 100s of times by other people today? Or is it just going to blend into the background noise with everything else? Have you prayed about it before you opened your mouth? Have you observed the other person’s side with empathy? Are you trying to win an argument? If your focus is winning, nobody actually wins because you have, by definition, made yourselves into adversaries. Instead, make your aim to understand fully where the other person is coming from and then, regardless of whether or not you agree, value them more highly than your “cause.” Jesus didn’t die for the laws and rules and politics, he died for people…because he loves people…because people are valuable and worthy of living and dying for.
My prayer today is that we would allow ourselves to be used by God to touch the lives of others…that we would love each other so well that we are able to enter into respectful discourse…that we would value people over winning an argument and that we would value honoring God over protecting our own egos from being bruised. (I’ve searched the Bible, nowhere does it bless those who “just say it like it is” or who “win all of their arguments.”) I’m praying that we would adopt a posture of humility as we approach each other and that we would produce the fruit of the Spirit: love…joy…peace…patience…kindness…goodness…faithfulness…gentleness…and self-control.
Much love friends,