How to Be Civil To Someone With Whom You Disagree

There has been so much dissension in my country (U.S.A) lately, especially when people talk about politics or something they are passionate about.  I’m sure the same is true in other countries as well.  This can be seen most evidently on social media platforms, where people feel that they can say whatever they want, with no filters whatsoever.  The negative political advertisements do us no favors either as far as the dissension problem is concerned.

This past Sunday at church, we were a having question and answer discussion to find out about the pastoral candidate (My current pastor is leaving. He has been at the church for over 40 years!), and the candidate made this wise statement that we all should learn to heed (paraphrased-emphasis mine): Even if I don’t agree with you on everything, I agree to disagree. 

I understand that it can be difficult to be civil to someone who vehemently disagrees with something you are passionate about.  I know, because when I was younger, I used to be combative against people who mocked or disagreed with that which I was passionate about. However, I have learned these following things about how we all can be civil to those whom we disagree:

  1. Remember the inherent value of the person whom you disagree with is not dependent on what they believe.—Society has perpetuated the lie that your worth is dependent on what you do or what you believe.  This has resulted in attacks and dissensions over the most trivial things!  However, if we remembered that the person who disagrees with us is still someone with a family and with a life, we would probably be more respectful and compassionate in relating with them.  Yes, beliefs and ideas DO have consequences, especially when they translate into actions, but attacking a person’s character based on what they believe will not get them to change their opinions or their convictions. In fact, it will often make the person hold on to their beliefs even tighter and your contrasting beliefs something to be mocked by them simply because they now equate what you believe with how you acted towards them!
  2. Find common ground—Yes, the person whom you disagree with may have a different way of thinking than you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find similarities in your beliefs or goals with them. For instance, both Republicans and Democrats want to better their society in which they live in, but they may go about it in different ways.  Also, regardless of religious belief or philosophy of life, the common ground one can find with one who disagrees with them is that they both want to better their lives, and, most likely, those of others.  Finding common ground will not only deescalate any potential arguments you may have with the person who disagrees with you, but may also serve to unite you with them in some way.
  3. Never attack the other person’s character, but focus on much as possible on why you disagree.—When you attack the person whom you disagree with, instead on focusing instead on the issue or issues which you differ, you have already lost their respect and listening ears.  Yes, I understand that debates and disagreements can get heated, but when we attack someone’s character or who they are inherently, we not only lose our own sense of integrity and respect, but we devalue their inherent worth as human being as well.
  4. Find out why they believe as they do.—Instead of coming across as combative and argumentative, ask questions. Find out why they believe as they do. For instance, a person may have certain views because of what they have experienced in life, both good and bad. For instance, if you find out a person doesn’t drink because he or she has seen the negative effects of alcohol in their family, you can better understand where they are coming from when they want the legal age to buy alcohol to be raised even higher. Sometimes people believe the way they do because of what others have told them, or misconceptions they had picked out along the way. If you find out they believe  a misconception of your view, you can respectfully and lovingly clear that up with the truth.

These are some of the things that I have learned to do in being civil with another person whom I disagree. So, when you voice your opinions and come across someone that doesn’t think as you do, whether it be on social media or in person, remember the value of the person is not based on what they believe; find common ground; never attack the person’s character, and find out why they believe as they do.  Finally, if all else fails, you should strive to just agree to disagree. However, if we more consistently applied these principles, this world would be a much more peaceful and unifying place.

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Saving Grace

written on:  9/30/2018

 

I watched you die inside

Tears fell from my one heart

As I watched you suffer

And your life got rougher

 

Don’t you know I love you?

How much I care for you?

You have been seeking love

A love that is most true

 

People have lied to you

They have abandoned you

But I’ll always be there

And give you so much care

 

I will always be true

To you, for all of all time

I will never hurt you

And I want to save you

 

Save you from all the lies

Save you from the empty pain

Save you from much disdain

Giving life in your soul

Best Advice Given

I believe that life is a teaching tool for us to be able to constantly improve ourselves and to learn as much as possible.  Though plenty of people have given me bad advice, there have also been many people that have given me valuable advice that has greatly impact my worldview and the way I live.  Here is a list (in quotes) of some of the best advice I have ever received in my life,  how it has encouraged or taught me about life, and why I think this advice is so good:

(In no particular order…)

  1. “Always do your best.”- my dad. – My dad not only has said pretty much this quote, he also has lived it. He sometimes picks up the slack of others who are not willing or able to work as hard.  I strive to do my best every day, whether it is at my job, or with my interactions with others, or whatever I do.  I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly, and I feel (appropriately) guilty when I do less than my best.  The feeling I get when I accomplish something good and I know I gave it my whole heart is one of the best feelings in the world!
  2. “My response is my responsibility.”-Pastor David Shoaf – My pastor’s quote is completely convicting to me because I know I have, on occasion, blamed someone for “hurting me” without taking responsibility for a wrong response to them.  When I remember this piece of advice/admonition, I am able to bite my tongue and be humble enough to admit my part in a conflict, where I had the wrong response towards someone, even if that other person really did hurt me.
  3. “Never let those who hate you dislodge your love and faithfulness to the God who gave His only begotten Son to give all for you.”—Pastor David Shoaf—Along with advice #2, I think what Pastor Shoaf said really encourages me to not let my love for God and others falter, even when others hurt or betray me.  Tough as it is to not let evil or hurtful people discourage my love, I figure that these people will eventually get what they deserve, but more so, I can “heap burning coals on their heads.” That is, I can let my love convict them of their actions, so that they will feel bad and improve their behavior. Also, sometimes the nastiest people are the ones that need our love the most.
  4. “Don’t let people say you can’t do something.”-J—This was said by my mentor J. I was so discouraged when I first met her because many people in my past had discouraged me from trying new things, and didn’t believe in what I could do. She not only said these words to encourage me, but also showed me she meant those words by always believing I could do the things that others may have thought I could never do.  Now, even when I have trouble doing something, I try again and again until I get it right. This advice is so good for all of us because it keeps us going, even when times are tough. When we don’t let other people’s estimation of our abilities influence what we do, we can achieve almost anything!
  5. “People are neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.”—Jefferson Bethke—Even though I have never met Jefferson in person, how he lives and especially this quote, inspires me.  This is a good quote to remind us of the value of people.  I have said this before, and I will say it again: When we stop caring about people, we become monsters.  That can also be said this way: When we treat people like commodities to be used, instead of souls that are to be loved, we also become monsters.  This quote has helped encourage me to uplift and encourage people, and never to use others to my own advantage.
  6. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”–Jim Elliot—This was something that the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, said in regards to the eternal versus the temporal.  I have been realizing more and more that this is very true.  This piece of advice has encouraged me to loosen my grip on some material things and be more willing to share with those that are in need.  In loosening my grip on temporary things like money and outer appearance, I have found that I am more able to love and help people than when I become stingy or judgmentally vain.  I also have found that when I apply this quote to letting go of small annoyances that probably won’t be remembered even the next day, and not to fuss over these issues. For instance, if someone rudely bumps into me without saying excuse me, instead of getting very upset at them, I would just politely say, “Excuse me,” and walk away from them, and not dwell on the situation again.
  7. “Dear ‘helpers’- If you’re doing it for the gratitude, then it’s not about them, it’s about you.”—my online friend *Holly (*=not her real name), in regards to people who do things that they think are kind, but only so they will feel “good” about themselves and will be appreciated by the recipient.  — This piece of advice has helped me to make sure my motivations in doing something for others are pure, and are not tainted with selfishness and self-aggrandizement.  I want to have a pure heart when doing something kind for others, helping others so that they will be able to experience love and joy, not just so I will feel appreciated by them.  I don’t ever want to feel entitled to appreciation or even respect, but instead to know that these things are gifts from above.

These are some of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. All these words of wisdom have helped shaped my worldview in a positive and more enlightening way for me.  They have helped me to be more giving and loving of others.  What are the best pieces of advice you have ever been given? How have they influenced your life? Feel free to reply in the comments.

Restoring Broken Relationships

There has been so much turmoil, hatred, and division in this world.  People are being torn apart—both physically and emotionally by these wars waged against one another.  Maybe you are in the midst of a relationship today that has been torn apart by the spirit of deception, abuse, anger, and/or betrayal.  Maybe there is a family member who has deeply hurt you, or maybe it is a co-worker or classmate who has bullied or hurt you in some other way.  Whoever has hurt you in life, whoever you may have hurt, and whatever may have caused the rift in one or more of your relationships, there is always hope for restoration if both parties are willing to do the hard work of repairing them.  Here are some of the essential ingredients that must be present in order to have a true restoration in a relationship with another person:

  1. In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must apologize for their part in the rift and/or forgive the other person for past hurts done to him or her. –A relationship cannot be restored if one or both parties still have bitterness and anger against the other.  Moreover, not only does holding grudges and being bitter prevent relationships from being restored, they destroy one’s other relationships as well because there is a barrier to transparency that develops with bitterness. Also, the party that wronged must sincerely apologize for his or her offense, in not only words, but also by changing their actions and/or making amends.   They must aim to seek restitution and restoration with the other party that they wronged, and not have an entitlement expectation that the offended party will do something for them in return.
  2. In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must demonstrate humility to the other.—Being humble means not lording the hurt that caused the relationship to break apart over the person that offended you.  Being humble also means owning your part in the rift, even if it is just your response to the person that hurt you.  Yes, it probably wasn’t your fault that your offender hurt you, but your response is.  As my pastor has repeatedly said, “Your response is your responsibility.”  Don’t lay blame on the other party for the rift, even if it was primarily their fault.  Placing blame never restores relationships, but forgiveness and humility do. 
  3. In order for a relationship to be restored, we must forsake selfishness.—If we still are thinking, what will I get out of restoring this relationship, you are not ready for restoration.  We must do not only what is best for us, but for all parties involved.  We must do what we can to uplift and encourage the person in the relationship.  In fact, when I was having a conflict with someone, one of my pastors said exactly this. In other words, we are to love those we consider our enemies, or those with whom we find ourselves in conflict. This means not only saying nice things about them, as opposed to  mean and nasty things, but it also means a willingness to help and support the person with whom we had a rift.  When we show that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, most people are willing to open up to us again.  I am not saying for us to let ourselves be taken advantage of consistently for others’ selfish pleasures. In that case, we may need to set some boundaries.  However, we must be willing to serve them in ways that truly will be beneficial to their emotional and spiritual well-being.
  4. In order for a relationship to be restored, we must be patient.—We must remember that complete change and restoration does not usually occur immediately, but over time.  We must be willing to wait for the relational trust and love that we had before the rift happened to be rebuilt.  Even if it takes a really long time, we must not give up on the relationship if we want it to be restored.  We must be willing to work hard at restoring and renewing our relationship for the better.

When we incorporate these four elements into restoring our broken relationships, with time, most of them can be restored.  Though it does take both parties for a relationship to be truly and fully restored, we must strive to do our part to be agents of reconciliation, especially with people who we interact with regularly. Yes, there are relationships that may not be able to fully be restored because of abuse or other things, but we must not let those broken relationships rule how we conduct our other relationships. However, when we are agents of reconciliation and restoration, we will make the world a better place.

Hope -a poem

-to everyone going through pain and hurt right now

When everything falls apart

When things start to unravel

When you are on your last rope

I still see a glimmer of hope

 

Because one day I almost died

In me, there was almost no fight

I almost missed that glorious light

But that bright light filled my soul

 

The light can also bring you much hope

If you let the brightness fill your soul

You will be able to see much love

And again your life will be made whole

How to Cultivate Gratitude

I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials.  As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl.  Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life.  Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace.  Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:

  1. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling.  Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given.  For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
  2. Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives.  The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful!  If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy!   Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy!  Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to.  Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
  3. Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck.   They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it!  Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.

By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.

Ways You Can Encourage Others

In order to celebrate the National Day of Encouragement, which is officially September 12, I think it is important to make those around us feel loved and encouraged, especially that day.  Sometimes, we may be at a loss as to what to say to someone who is feeling especially discouraged today, or we may not feel especially motivated to be encouraging, especially if the people around you keep berating you in some way, or they are pressuring you into being someone who you are not or cannot be.  However, tough as it may be, the difference we make in others’ lives just by encouraging them can be life-changing. Here are some ways I have found that we can encourage others:

Through words of validation:

My online friend Holly is the best at this, even though she has been invalidated far too often.  When I was upset, she always respected my right to vent and feel what I was feeling.  She offered me words of encouragement that let me know that she was on my side and would support me through it all.  So, how can you validate someone?  A) Refrain from judging or condemning the person, even if you disagree with some of the choices the person has made.  Just listen to them, and offer words of hope. You don’t have to agree with everything the person is saying, but you don’t have to insult them or be judgmental either.   For instance, if someone you know is struggling with an addiction, don’t tell them they “should” do this or that. A.) They may not be prepared to hear advice yet, and will just shut down if you try to tell them “shoulds.” B) A better way to approach this person is to tell them that you will support them when they are ready to stop the addiction and will be there for them even now.   Another way to validate someone is to affirm their best qualities. This validation will especially boost a person who struggles with low self-esteem.  Of course, do not just “flatter” them to get something you want, but do it in a genuine, heartfelt way. 

When someone is going through a tough time:

I just had a really bad day yesterday when I was just feeling down on myself and was very stressed.  However, several people who were really close to me encouraged me by reminding me of the good that I had accomplished in my life and told me how I was doing the best I could.  Telling someone who is struggling with depression that they are doing the best they can for the situation that they are in expresses both empathy and validation for their struggle.  While other people may wrongly think that they are just being “lazy” or “negative” in some way, you can be the beacon of hope and encouragement in their lives by validating their struggle. You can also encourage people going through a tough time by just spending quality time with them.  When one of the congregants at my church was very sick, many people visited and encouraged her. She was very happy to see us, and thus she was able to not feel so alone in her pain. 

Through words and actions of appreciation:

There are only a few things worse, in my opinion, than having the good that you have done on earth or for someone go unappreciated or rejected.  However, some people feel that the good that they do is either in vain, or that no one appreciates them. I am trying to change that mindset in my sphere of influence by making sure that the good that people have done for me does not go unappreciated.  I want the people in my life to know that they matter and that they are loved.  You can also make sure the good that the people in your life have done for you is appreciated and valued. Some of the ways you can show your appreciation for others is by writing them a heartfelt thank-you note, by telling them how much you appreciate them  (It is better if you can point to specific instances where you felt loved and cared for by them.) , and by caring for them in their time of need.

These are some of the ways I have found that you can encourage others today.  Many people around you are facing stressors of different kinds, and some are even feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by life’s circumstances.  However, with your words of encouragement, you can help boost their whole outlook on life and give them hope in whatever they are facing.  Let’s be encouraging to those around us, starting today and see the world change for the better!