For months, we’ve been watching it happen: good people we thought we knew having virtual smackdowns online as we sit ringside.
In some cases, we’ve thrown ourselves in the ring and lived to regret its emotional toll.
What once seemed like harmless banter over differing beliefs has hit fever pitch as of late -- political mindsets and social viewpoints turning violent, as in the recent shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and his colleagues during a typically friendly baseball practice.
It’s hard not to have anxiety over our growing vitriolic culture.
The internet can be a hard place for beliefs, same as the cubicle in the office, despite the welcoming smile of the succulent and cozy bedazzled cup holder made by the co-worker’s kid.
Even those of us with the strongest faith have found ourselves cowering in the midst of a stormy culture, fearful that to out our true convictions is to call attention to ourselves to our detriment. We have enough problems without adding interpersonal turmoil to the list, thank you very much.
So we sit with our angst, bury our beliefs, and feel good about none of it.
The answer is not to cower, cave or go on the attack, but to have a better strategy for rational and respectable response to difficult issues.
In every situation, the goal can’t be for people to agree with us. If that is our objective, welcome to a life of futility and endless pursuit.
But if we truly want to be able to stand and respond to an aggressive culture that will often be at odds with our faith and core beliefs, we must choose a better way. Become a steady, wise voice that people come to count on for strength despite the craziness of this world.
In other words: look different from most everyone else.
1) Know what you believe. The truth is, many of us have opinions and strong words. But far fewer actually know what we believe. There is a vast difference between knowing what we believe, being grounded in our convictions after prayerful, careful consideration, practice and thought and grabbing onto someone else’s life research. Listen and gather information. Consider opinions and thoughts. But at the end of the day, ground yourself in something more than that. Do your own work. Make this a personal quest. Pray and read the Bible. Build your life on more than passing trends, cultural fads and bandwagon beliefs. When you know what you believe you will be able to defend your beliefs in an aggressive culture, even when it doesn’t believe as you do. (I would add: the way you defend your beliefs is key, as well. Practice humility and ask God for wisdom as you speak out in defense of what you believe.)
2) Tell the truth. At first glance, this may seem like an odd way to defend your beliefs, but it’s really the key to any successful important conversation. In fact, it is the key to life, the key to everything because truth is the only way to live. We have to be honest with ourselves, first and foremost, before we ever try to be a truthteller to someone else. (Where we struggle, where we need help – which is often a step we bypass.) When we defend our beliefs with truth on our side, we come into the equation with strength. Defending our faith, what we believe, is best accomplished from a posture of personal freedom, and freedom only comes from a life of complete truth. When we tell others the truth, we do so from a place of steadied conviction, but also with the understanding that the belief may not be shared so kindness and respect is a human non-negotiable. When this piece is missing, not even the most intelligent voice will be heard.
3) Steady yourself. People are looking for a steady, positive voice in the ever-increasing combativeness of culture. While we reject inconsistency and antagonism, we appreciate honest dialogue driven by stability and kindness as a human non-negotiable. We don’t have to give up beliefs or personal convictions in order to engage in considerate debate. A person who has grounded themselves in their faith and their commitment to treating others with respect, even in the face of differing opinion, is a person who will find themselves having influence without making harsh demands.
The world will continue in its varying commentary and controversy over differing opinions and belief will remain a cultural norm.
We can rise above the aggression and anger and let our voices be heard: about the things we hold most dear, convictions that drive our life, and faith that is our bedrock.
Let’s know what we believe, tell the truth, and steady ourselves to stop the cycle of crazy and lead us all into a better way.