Today, within a two-minute span I saw two posts on Facebook —one screaming in all caps that you, cannot be a Christian and be a Democrat, the other proclaiming that, if you call yourself a Christian, you cannot be a Republican. Republicans are evil, and Democrats are godly. Two separate people. Two separate posts. Two different parts of the country. Are you serious?!
As I’ve quietly perused social media in the wake of the Charlottesville incident, my heart grows ever weary and troubled. The way we talk to each other, the permission we give ourselves to be arrogant, condescending, hateful to each other, is alarming. What’s worse is that some of the harshest diatribes are offered, in the name of Jesus. Really?
This wounds me to the core. What concerns me the most is not necessarily the content of our conversations —differing opinions have never bothered me. What concerns me is the dynamic that is occurring in these online exchanges. Perhaps because I am trained to analyze communication styles and teach couples which qualities work and which qualities don’t work in their relationships, seeing how online conversations escalate from respectful disagreements to all-out war, is disconcerting, at best.
I wrote in my book, Peace For A Lifetime, about the importance of relationship dynamics. There are certain characteristics of communication that determine a couple’s viability and strength. Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist and leading researcher on relationships and communication, suggests that it is not if a couple fights but how they fight, that determines whether their relationship will survive.
You see, we will all disagree with someone at some point in our relationships. Gottman even argues that 70% of a couple’s disagreements are unresolvable, yes unresolvable. Only 30% of a couple’s disagreements are actually resolvable. Therefore, it is how they interact and communicate around the 70% unresolvable issues that will determine if they can create the safety and respect necessary to build a healthy, strong relationship.
The same principles at work within the microcosm of couple relationships, I believe apply in a larger sense to our relationships online, within our families, and across our nation. It is how we are communicating and interacting with one another that is destroying our ability to coexist, interact, and solve the problems of this great nation.
I’ve come up with some rules for communicating on social media and in real life relationships that will help move our families and our country forward, and will breathe new life into all our online relationships.
Before posting anything, take a breath. A long breath.
Ask yourself if what you are typing is necessary, if it adds anything to the larger conversation. Sometimes less is more. I am in no way suggesting that we silence our hearts or remove our voices from being heard on important topics, but sometimes every fleeting thought or feeling doesn’t need to be injected on each post or comment with which we disagree. It just doesn’t.
I try to be careful about when I post, comment, etc., because that post is rarely the last word of the thread, and the emotional rancor from the discussion that follows almost always steals my peace. Someone always comments, always rebuts, always disagrees, no matter what I share. Reading follow-up comments, replying, thinking of the perfect “comeback” keeps me from enjoying my day and from directing my energies toward the people and purposes God has called me to invest myself.
We need to ask ourselves, Do I really need to share? Is it worth it? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
You are not God. You are not the ultimate authority on every aspect of political, religious, and cultural life in this country. Your perspective is valuable because it is uniquely derived through your set of experiences, both historic and present, and therefore has merit as a member of the human race and as a citizen of this country.
However, it is not your job to set everyone straight, to label, criticize, or condemn. Sorry. Emotionally-abundant individuals are able to hold on to their unique identity, their values and beliefs while being close to someone who may be different from them. It wouldn’t be okay for someone to require us to abandon ourselves in order to be close to them, and it is not okay for us to demand anyone else abandon themselves either.
We can agree to disagree. Respectfully. Calmly. We can create a space where two perspectives can coexist safely without fear, intimidation, without shame or condemnation.
We can agree to disagree. Respectfully. Calmly. We can create a space where two perspectives can coexist safely without fear, intimidation, without shame or condemnation.Click To Tweet
If you feel the need to post or comment on social media, use the same rules your mother taught you about how to treat others.
- If you can’t say something nice (with kindness, respect, care, or concern), perhaps you shouldn’t say anything at all.
- Treat others how you would want to be treated.
- Bullying anyone is never okay. Period.
Somehow on social media, it becomes easy to lambast someone from the safety of our computer with impunity. Many of us would never say the things we say on Facebook to someone face-to-face. We rally against bullying, hate, and discrimination in our social circles all the while we are bullying, hating, and discriminating against others online.
Share how you feel —your personal emotional experience. When this happened, it made me feel (fill in the blank.) Share your individual perspective, but be careful to avoid criticism, condemnation, defensiveness, and sarcasm.
Belittling statements, broad judgments, name-calling, and insidious corrections of someone else’s opinion as if we were elected to be the righteous police —these serve only to destroy. They not only destroy our opponent, they destroy us. They form a cancer of bitterness that infects us slowly from the inside out. Worse yet, they will destroy our relationships. Ultimately, they will destroy our nation.
If you are going to hop on your bandwagon about the atrocities on one side of the political aisle, you should also be willing to speak out against the atrocities in your own party.
We have become masters at victimization. We are well-schooled at claiming offenses, inciting outrage, and denouncing the opposition on issues that are important to us. All the while we remain stunningly silent on offenses that are equally egregious and shameful, simply because they don’t fit our agenda.
If we are truly speaking from a place of justice, then we should seek justice for all. That means that we speak up for our black brothers and sisters, that we denounce all forms of hatred. It also means that we speak up against corruption, division, hateful rhetoric, all forms of bigotry and violence, no matter where it arises, whether it is convenient to our cause or not.
Truly listen. Listen to understand, not to correct, rebut, or defend. There is a personal experience behind every opinion, an honest story behind every belief that we should seek to access, lean into, and be curious about. Stop trying to win the argument. Perhaps winning comes more from hearing and considering another’s perspective. It is here that God can enlarge and expand our hearts, shattering the rigid confines of our myopic experience.
We will never solve the great woes of this land by trying to shame, annihilate, or subjugate the other side. The other side isn’t going away and they are not changing their minds, no matter how much you may want them to. Our country is trembling. She is crying out for each of us to lay down our weapons and work together. Pray together. Listen to each other. Really listen.
Our country is trembling. She is crying out for each of us to lay down our weapons and work together. Pray together. Listen to each other. Really listen.Click To Tweet
In the end, we will only move forward if we move together. We can, we must. Stop waiting for someone else to take the first step, let’s each decide that we are the first step. We will get there, one step at a time. God is faithful.
Stop waiting for someone else to take the first step, let’s each decide that we are the first step. Click To Tweet
Sometimes when we feel like the chaos is too consuming and we are becoming our worst selves, God steps in and creates pivotal moments where we can choose to be our best selves, to be who God created us to be. To love, to serve, to do daily as Micah 6:8 (NIV) exhorts us…
To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
About This Community
Don’t we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that – a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891
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