Learn how to fight
Years ago I read (the source is long forgotten) that couples with strong marriages do not necessarily fight or argue less than couples in struggling marriages, rather they fight or argue better. They have learned to differ with each other without taking cheap or fatal shots at their partner.
The reason for raising this issue is that I have become increasingly appalled at the inability of many in our current climate to disagree with those who hold contrasting views without vilifying or demeaning them. I suspect it stems from a misguided pushback against the wave of political correctness that has swept over our society. The unacceptability of saying anything controversial or that goes against current practice has become so untenable that many are responding by throwing the baby out with the bathwater and are choosing to push back, voicing their positions with venom and rage.
There is rising evidence of an inability to distinguish between the numbing, compromising current of political correctness and an honest disagreement respectfully stated.
The easy examples of this trend emerge from the political realm where what has been taking place especially south of the
border is almost incomprehensible. Truth and decency don’t even register on the gauge as opponents seek to destroy each other.
Harder examples come much closer to home. Twice recently I have received outright hate mail from individuals who differ in position to what they thought I said. One instructed me that there would be a special place in hell reserved for me while another suggested I ought to be drowned in the deepest part of Lake Okanagan. I guess drowning me in a shallow part wouldn’t be satisfactory to him.
Needless to say, conversations of that nature have zero benefit. Expressing opinions in such venomous ways destroys any possibility of honest, reasoned dialogue. It also diametrically opposes the posture taken by Jesus of Nazareth.
One coach I had the privilege of learning from in the art of holding crucial conversations suggested using one carefully worded question.
He would ask opponents, “Is there any way I can disagree with your position, in full respect, without being labelled bigoted or closed-minded?”
In other words, is the only satisfactory outcome to our discussion one where we must hold identical opinions or is there a way for us to respectfully disagree with one another? If so, let’s find it.
Some of the issues facing contemporary society are emotionally loaded and in actual fact have very high stakes. The position one takes on such issues actually matters. That said, nothing justifies treating opponents with venom and hatred.
The posture of Jesus was to love one’s enemies. The posture of Paul the Apostle was to correct the wrongdoer gently and humbly. Neither Jesus nor Paul was a compromiser of truth nor were they prone to political correctness. They took clear stands on right and wrong.
However, they did so minus the hatred and guile evident in much current expression. This was especially true when they addressed the surrounding culture. Their harshest language was reserved for selfrighteous religious leaders who were themselves abusing others.
At the height of the current municipal election and in the face of several high stakes debates about what is right and wrong we must learn to fight well.
Failure to do so will involve losses on every side.
Tim Schroeder is pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna. This column appears in Okanagan Weekend.