An Important Perspective on the Difficult and Mudane

beofpp

A while back a friend shared an interesting concept with me, which I have come to see applies to many areas of life. We were on our way to meet with a ministry that our church supports and we knew that there would be some hard conversations that needed to be had – some behaviors and attitudes which needed to be confronted and challenged, some practices that needed to be critiqued.

What my friend told me is that things like this are hard in the moment, but when you zoom way out, and you take the big picture view of what is going on, they are actually beautiful – and if you can keep that perspective, it helps you to do those things which are difficult in the moment.

The example he used was his family: if you look at any given moment up close, it probably doesn’t look that beautiful: dad is frustrated and scolding the kids for not doing their chores, mom is complaining that someone left their shoes in the middle of the floor, siblings are bickering with each other, the dog is barking and scratching up the glass door…  It’s all terrible, right?

Except it’s not. If you zoom out from the details of the moment and take the 30,00o foot view, where you see what is happening there as a whole, what you see is something beautiful: you see a group of people who are living together, who love each other and are committed to each other. And 20 years from now, it’s not going to be the siblings bickering that you’ll remember, it’s the big picture of the family that was together.

The point is: Even if in the moment it isn’t glorious and beautiful, in the big picture it is.

I think this can be applied to many areas in life. In general, creating things and building things is an inglorious process, but the big picture of the process itself, not only the finished product, can be a beautiful thing.

I know someone who felt a calling to move his family to a certain city a few years ago to plant a church. They were excited, they felt that they loved the culture of this city, that it would be a great fit for their family, and they expected that God would use them to birth a new church. After arriving in town and getting established, they set up the church’s website, affiliated with a group of churches, and announced a weekly meeting. They were prepared that it might be slow-going getting started, but they were excited when someone they had invited showed up for their Bible study. However, little encouragements like this became more and more rare. For two years they did everything they could think of to get this church started, the whole family was involved, and the husband worked also worked a full time job to pay the bills. After two years, they shut it down and moved back to where they had come from, disappointed and confused: had they not discerned God’s will correctly that this is what they were supposed to do?  Or was it possible that God had led them out there on purpose, knowing that the church plant would not succeed, in order to teach them something?

If you would have looked at any given moment, you might have seen intense discouragement. You might have seen kids complaining that their parents had taken them away from their friends back home to move to this place, and for what? To have a Bible study in their house that was poorly attended? You might have seen a marriage that was struggling under the stress and sadness of a dream that was not materializing. Nothing beautiful. Nothing glorious.

But when you take a step back and look at the big picture, you do see something that is beautiful. You see something that is downright glorious. You see a family together, taking a step of faith and following God; working together and serving together, praying together for God to work in a city and call people to new life. You see a man and a woman who are seeking God for direction, and asking Him to speak to them. You see a group of kids who have a mom and dad who are setting an amazing example for them of values which really matter… That is beautiful. That is glorious.

That isn’t to say that everything people do is glorious in the big picture. There are plenty of things which are not. But doing things that matter often consists of doing many things which aren’t glorious or pretty or fun. Sometimes they are messy or painful or even just super boring. This is true of business, school, relationships, marriage, and just about anything else that matters.

Keep that perspective in mind this week: try to see the big picture in the difficult moments, and let that encourage you to continue on working for things that matter.

Advertisements

4 Strategies for Families Divided by Politics

636070480073674241164334377_political-incivility-color

We live in a highly charged political climate, where many people see those on the opposite side of the political divide as being “what’s wrong with America.”

But what about when this touches your family? How can you have a family get-together without it deteriorating into arguments, awkwardness, alienation and hurt feelings? Is the only solution to just ignore the “elephant in the room” and not talk about politics?

This week I did an interview for the Longmont Times-Call newspaper on this subject. The article will come out on November 20. At the same time, a family I’m connected to is dealing with this exact scenario: their family is divided politically and it is straining their relationships.

Here are 4 simple strategies that can help families divided by politics:

1. Establish ground rules

In almost any mediation situation, the mediator will begin by establishing some ground rules for the discussion. This can be done in a family setting as well.

Here are some examples:

– No accusations allowed, only perception-based statements.

Rather than, “You people are ________” say something like, “This stance comes across to me as __________”.

– Discuss issues, not identities.

Rather than “Trump supporters are  ________” say, “I disagree with this policy because __________”.

– When it starts to feel negative, stop.

Take a break. Politicians come and go, and even they are willing to work together. Don’t let politics divide your family. It’s not worth it.

2. Zoom out to see the big picture

A political campaign is a marketing campaign. Each side is trying to get you to buy what they’re selling. To do this, they employ many strategies, particularly hyperbole and portraying the other side as dangerous and evil. But as soon as the campaign is over, they change their tone drastically. Why? Because they understand the nature of political campaigns. The problem is, many people don’t understand this the way politicians themselves do.

For example: In the final weeks of the campaign, President Obama said that Donald Trump was “very dangerous” and “a threat to democracy.” Trump called Obama “a disaster”, “the founder of ISIS” and “the most ignorant president in our history.” But then this week, the tone changed completely. Obama said Trump will be his president, that they were on the same team and that he was committed to helping Trump succeed. Trump said of Obama that “he is a very good man”.

It’s a game, a contest – and each side wants to win. But when it’s over, they know how to turn off the personas and work together.
It’s similar to a football game: for 60 minutes the players on each side try to crush each other. They use intimidation tactics, they hit each other as hard as they can – but when the game is over, they exchange jerseys and hug.

It’s often been noted that in congress, after heated partisan discussions, they all go eat lunch together in the cafeteria, and people from different parties who were at each other’s throats in the negotiating room, sit down and eat together.

Here’s the point: Politicians themselves understand campaigns for what they are. It would help us to do the same.

3. Affirm the noble values of the other person’s position

People who care about politics generally do so because they genuinely care about other people. They want to make things better. They’re passionate, interested and thoughtful. Most people who hold political views consider themselves to be heroic and compassionate. In other words, people all across the political spectrum believe that they are opposing evil and advocating for the good of others. In the end, we all want many of the same things, we just differ on how we believe those things can be achieved.

To take the teeth and the animosity out of a political discussion, it helps to affirm the noble values inherent to the other person’s position, and acknowledge that you hold those same values yourself.

For example: someone might say, “I support this political party because I care about the poor” or “…because I believe that all people are created equal” or “…because I consider life sacred.” Rather than take that as an insinuation that people who differ from them politically don’t care about those things, simply affirm that you do. Affirm all of the noble values that the other person cares about – and explain that you also want those same end goals. Then you can begin talking about strategies to achieve those goals, having taken many of the accusations and value judgments out of the equation and creating a less emotional, more rational discussion, because you’ve shown that you’re both interested in achieving the same ultimate goals.

4. Diffuse the tension by inviting the other person to tell you their views without argument

Love, the Bible teaches, is not a feeling, it is an action: a self-sacrifical, giving action. Because people love to talk about themselves, one of the greatest expressions of love you can give a person is to invite them to explain their views to you, and you only listen. No arguing. No interrupting. Just listening.

Maybe that would feel like a small death to you, and it may very well be an exercise in dying to yourself – but that is how God expressed His love for us: by suffering and dying for our sake.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us that it was for the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured the cross. So, in the end, there was something in it for him, but it wasn’t a selfish motive – it was for the sake of us (him and us together) that he did it. He subjected himself to suffering for the sake of repairing our broken relationship with him — which was, by the way, our fault alone. But yet, he reached out, he offered to suffer and die for the sake of the joy of a restored relationship with us.

Even if it feels like a small death, or you suffer through listening to your family member share their views with you – one of the greatest acts of love you can give them is to listen intently without saying a word, then affirming the good values and principles in their views. You might just find that the other person is so surprised and honored that you took the time to hear them out that they are most open to listening to you in return. And rather than being toxic and divisive, your discussion can be healthy and amiable – even if you still agree to disagree on the methods and strategies.

Have you experienced a similar situation?  Do you have any other suggestions or strategies?
Leave a comment below!