*Susan Brubaker Knapp's quote was garnered by interviewers from National Public Radio, following the events of the 2016 election. Most of us have likely made similar comments, or heard them from friends and family.
Hands waving, I'm calling for it. A Ceasefire. I'm tuckered out, like so many of you, but still moving forward. Wobbly, but clinging to my hope stores - set aside during the more peaceful years.
I have faith in us, dear reader. I believe that there's a better place to dwell, far removed from the knee-jerk reactions of cutting-off friends, coworkers, and family. Thank you for joining me with a determination to foster productive, faith-filled conversations. I'm glad you're here.
I don't think exactly like you do.
There, I said it. It's not really a shocking statement, right? Deep down you know that, yet we're both constantly amazed to discover that we don't view the world the same way. In fact, the longer our views go unchallenged by differing opinions, the more likely we are to succumb to bias. We think that our way is great. We think we're right, and honestly, to what other conclusion about life could we come, when we're committed so deeply to our points of view? Tunnel vision.
It's not a surprise, then, when I share that I probably don't love all the same foods as you do. I'm likely less educated than you, or perhaps moreso. My style choices may remind you of a thrift shop find or a funky, eclectic catalogue. And my kids, well, who knows how our parenting methods compare? It's a matter of perspective. We come from different parts of the world, after all. Different communities. Family situations. Economic structures.
Our deepest opinions were planted years ago. The ideas hung around, and eventually became our identity. Can we all agree that our strongest convictions end up being how we describe ourselves to others? If you're not sure, go ahead and read a few of your friends' social media bios and scroll through their feeds. They've already told you who they are. Do you believe them?
All-to-often we define ourselves by extremely narrow parameters: Age. Occupation. Race. Relationship Status. Political Affiliation. Gender. IQ. Religion. Sexuality.
It's like an over-simplified job application, position: humanity. Each factor is a part of us, yet we choose just one or two "main ones." We make ourselves smaller, so that we relate to others like us, but in the process, distance ourselves from the rest. We want to belong, but before we know it, we've become a nation of "we's and they's."
And then it gets personal.
Why might we be taking other peoples' opinions so extremely personally? In an article subtitled: "Why we react to inconvenient truths as if they were personal insults," Brian Resnick describes findings from a recent Scientific Reports study. Basically, the experiment involved lying to participants as they monitored brain activity.
They uncovered two main findings:
1. People were willing to accept mundane "facts" with a grain of salt, even when the facts were fabricated.
2. "When participants were challenged on their strongly held beliefs, there was more activation in the parts of the brain that are thought to correspond with self-identity and negative emotions." (Political views and morality)
"...We mistake ideological challenges as personal insults...to change minds, we need to separate opinions from identities..." (Resnick)
Here's what we know as believers in Christ:
We change. And if we run scared from disagree, we'll miss out on the joy God places in our relationships. We'll miss out on Him showing us the Truth about our beliefs, because just as the participants discovered in the experiment, some of our opinions may not be Kingdom fact.
In the light of our current social and political climate, I feel compelled to address you personally this week, dear reader:
I promise that we won't always agree, but I won't shame you, bully you, or cut you out. I won't reject you, call names, or come to the conclusion that I must be smarter, better-informed, "in the know." Your journey, your thoughts, and your beliefs should be submitted to the judgement and authority of God alone.
Our opinions don't threaten each of our identities in Christ, therefore I won't succumb to fear when your thoughts are not my thoughts. We don't have to give way to panic with every ebb and flow of public opinion. God has a plan for both my life, and for yours too, so you can share something with me that's important to you without my having to own it. I can feel empathy for you without my having to adopt your story as my own. We grow together, but with a clear understanding of where you end and I begin.
It strikes me that Jesus knew intimately the conflict that would come to Him in a world who didn't fully understand His perspective, but He went anyway. He got His hands dirty and it was complicated and messy. He listened. Taught. Comforted. Corrected. Healed. He experienced the fullness of human emotion, rejection, and misunderstanding, yet He came for every man - but only with the help of Holy Spirit.
So, too can we hear one another without our inner-worlds falling apart, because we can also know Whose we are and why He put us on this earth. God can change my mind as we learn together or I can invite you to take a new perspective with me. Now that's a solid identity.
With you and for you - one conversation at a time,
Believer. Wife. Mom. Writer. Marriage and Family Therapist. Accidental Speaker. Crossfitter and Total Book Nerd.
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