Do we want to just fight? Don’t you know people who just seem to want to fight? ALL THE TIME?
I don’t. I want progress. I want growth. For me and for all of us as a society. I want to learn something and use that to be a better person. To be like Jesus. To be kinder and more compassionate. I want to understand others, and I want to be more emotionally mature than I was last year, last week, yesterday. Do you want that? Honestly, does anyone really want that? I think we do. I think some of us do. Some of us sure don’t. And when we figure that out, we have to shake the dust from our sandals and move on.
It’s not about just NOT fighting. It’s not about that old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say. Sometimes you absolutely need to say something. Sometimes everyone it just yelling and no one is listening and someone needs to be the mature adult in the room and separate the kids. Sometimes something horrible is happening and you have to take a stand. But you want it to be heard. Actually heard and actually considered. Even by those who disagree with you on pretty much everything. Then you have to decide the costs you are willing to pay to get what you think you want. If you’ve considered the costs, and are willing to engage the battle…
Here are some reminders that are helpful to me when trying to “fight” well…
(1) Self examination…
- How able am I right now – mentally, emotionally, physically – to honestly listen and understand someone else? If I’m honest and not up to it, I just won’t.
- Am I aware of my emotions and their effect on how I will say things, how I will come across to others? It’s not about stuffing your emotions and being able to do that – come across as composed and unemotional – does NOT mean you more “worth” listening to or that you are probably more truthful than someone who is emotionally wrecked. But it can mean that you will not get your point across well and you may skew what you are actually wanting to say.
- Do my emotions serve the conversation well? Would I be better waiting to be sure my thoughts are stated accurately and given the appropriate amount of consideration?
- How much am I carrying into the conversation – the baggage of my own self-worth, my self-assurance, my experiences?
- Have I recognized that baggage as informing all I think about related issues and have I considered what “filters” I have applied to the issues? (Filters can be upbringing, a sense of self-worth, advice from other baggage-laden people, personal experiences that are outliers to “common” shared experiences)
- How much of that baggage am I willing to label and claim and consider as detrimental to the relationship with the person I am talking to? to put it in a humorous way, is our baggage a matching set or does it all clash?
(2) Other examination…
- How much do I know about the other person, their own baggage (also as filtered through their sense of self-worth and personal reflection)?
- Can I actually name any of their baggage or label any of their filters? If not… maybe this conversation is a nonstarter… ! Maybe the conversation is better served by asking them questions about their side.
- Are they mentally, emotionally and physically at an optimal time to have this conversation? ie. have they had coffee yet?
- Am I the best person to have this conversation with this person? Is there someone else that can better address the issues?
- Does this person want the same things I want, generally speaking or specifically? Do I even know what they want? Again, maybe a nonstarter if you can’t answer this question.
Maybe less yelling would happen if we all consider these things first.
Maybe we’d all talk a lot less. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Maybe just giving someone a lot of space will then open a conversation to an honest, life-giving dialogue instead of draining us, leaving us more cold-hearted and less likely to budge.
Maybe we can all take a page from Jesus’ interactions? I love how he treated the conversation with the woman at the well. Wow. He already knew all these things. he of course could answer all these questions about himself and about her. But he still let the conversation unfold. He didn’t do all the talking. He pointed her in a direction. he didn’t attack her. He didn’t put her on the defensive. He let her do some talking and figuring things out for herself… putting two and two together and getting Jesus. This is the better way. Let’s fight. But let’s fight well.