I recently spent some time with friends who are going through struggle and hurt related to church politics. It is so painful for me, even as an outsider, to see the pain born out of posturing, shaming and betrayal leaving so many people distraught. I get to offer help in this situation for those that I know and love. As they ask for my advice and help navigating these issues, I am noticing how easy it is for me to get sucked into the same type of defensive tactics that are the original source of the pain. Out of my love for the people I know, I want to defend and attack. What is that about?
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash
I am sure there are many things that contribute, but one stands out more than the others. Many of us have been programmed to believe that we are right and others are wrong.
When we are programmed to be right, it is so ingrained that before we even know what we are doing, we are arguing. It is a knee-jerk reaction to defend and attack. It feels like maybe we can’t even help it or we feel entitled to this reaction. As soon as this triggered reaction happens the ugly, thick, black lines are drawn in the sand and it is me against you, us against them. The justification gymnastics begin. Even if our perspective is a healthy Kingdom and Godly perspective, the tactics we are using can easily devalue the very God and Kingdom we are representing. What good can come of this?
I am all about being strong in your beliefs and standing up for yourself, so I am not suggesting you be everyone’s doormat. The choice that we are faced with is this: we can either be right or love well, but sometimes we cannot we do both at the same time. Which one will we choose? I believe that Jesus’ choice was to love people well, wherever He was and whatever he did.
Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash
It is easy to see this love when Jesus was kind and compassionate to the outcasts and obviously hurting people. But even in conflict, when he sternly confronted Pharisees with powerful words or did things like flip tables in the temple, there was the underlying motive of love. Sometimes He had to (and still has to) powerfully remove the obstacles that we so willingly put between ourselves or others and God. This didn’t look meek or kind, but sometimes it is the greatest kindness to confront negative behavior instead of allowing it to continue. He wasn’t attacking the person or defending Himself. It was always motivated by love.
Imagine a situation in which you disagree strongly with someone or some group. Here are two different postures to take.
In a defensive mode, our reaction is something like this: Our words portray diminishment, attacking, prideful authority. Our attitudes portray anger, division, shaming and can even go so far as hatred. Our body language portrays defensiveness, hiddenness, and unwillingness to listen or be open. This doesn’t look much like the Kingdom Life that Jesus invites and models.
Entering into a similar situation, grounding ourselves in God and with the mission to love the other well it could look like this: Our words portray curiosity, firm honesty, honor, and even delight in the strength of the others’ conviction. Our attitude portrays kindness, patience and a real care for the other. Our body language portrays an open and vulnerable position of authenticity.
Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash
Be aware of how you’ve been programed to be right. By doing this you’ve given yourself the opportunity to make the courageous choice to love even in places of conflict.