When we look at the conflicts like the one between Liz and Mary Cheney over gay marriage, one thing is clear. Some issues in our culture are hot buttons. The rift between these two sisters proves to me that no matter how respectful people can be in “agreeing to disagree”, some offenses will happen no matter how tactfully the debate is communicated.
This article is not a rant about my opinions on Liz and Mary Cheney, or gay marriage for that matter. For more information about Liz and Mary Cheney’s Facebook dispute, visit http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/cheney-sisters-liza-mary-feud-gay-marriage-facebook-20933916. The Cheney debacle simply reminded me that as human beings, whether republican, democrat, religious, irreligious, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, blue collar or white collar, etc., etc., we are bound to disagree. How is it that we can communicate disagreement to others, even when they hit our “hot buttons”, in a tactful, loving, thoughtful way?
I suppose I’m asking the question as well as trying to give the answer! When I was in my early twenties, I was an incessant loudmouth. Now, at the age of thirty-two, I still struggle with being too blunt. Just ask my wife. We get up in the morning at about 5 a.m. everyday because our daughter is seventeen months old. I’m the worst before a cup of strong coffee at this time. I walked by a couple of “baby-gate” fences this morning and they fell over. Sarcastically, I asked Sarah, my wife, “so, are you always going to keep those things there or are you going to like… move them where they’re not totally in the way?” I had to quickly apologize, as I often do!
But I also run across people day to day that say things I totally disagree with. Of course, I want them to see what I see… whether it’s wrong or right! How do you deal with these scenarios?
If anything, I’ve learned to listen first… “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) When we give others time to express their opinions and views, no matter what they are, those people feel validated, cared for, and even understood.
On top of listening, body language is everything! Even if someone were talking to us about eating pig poop while playing electric synthesizer and smoking crack, we should keep our body motions and responses calm and collected. We shouldn’t express shock, even at things that are bizarre. After all, God Himself is not shocked in any way by anything that we do, even the weirdest stuff. He’s seen it all, hasn’t He?
Also, it doesn’t mean we’re giving approval to destructive behavior when we don’t roll our eyes, or flinch, or get wide-eyed at the wild rantings of madmen! It just means that we’re doing our best, by faith, “to Judge not, that we will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1) After all, getting someone to feel guilty and force behavior modification on them in our presence will not help them to change. Instead, it will make them feel condemned, and they’ll probably turn off anything good we have to say. Worst of all, they’ll think we’re jerks for no good reason at all, and we’ll miss out on being able to be-friend them, serve, and honor them. I know we don’t want to be friends with everyone we encounter! But, “If possible, so far as it depends on us, we should live peaceably with all.” (Rom. 12:18)
Amidst listening well, and not having poor body language, we need to respond. I’d recommend that we first try to find things we have in common with others… every day things like sports, music, news, weather, interests, personality similarities, etc. We should take the time in every conversation to affirm things in others, be warm and inviting, laugh when appropriate, and build and encourage people. This wins us a voice with others.
After all of this, we may have a moment to share something with someone that contains truth, or may even challenge what they’re saying. This is important. We can’t be fakers and patronizers, or we’ll go on into a life of bitterness. We also can’t just open our mouth and spew out verbal vomit, for “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8) The Holy Spirit can tame our tongue, but if we say everything we think, we’re bound to burn some bridges and scar some hearts.
So we should say everything in a tone of understanding. If we don’t understand where someone is coming from in their opinions, or we’re uneducated about their perspective, we should admit it. If we have a strong conviction that we want to communicate which challenges the other person, we should say it in a way that we’re personally relating to where they’re at. Recently, I was talking with someone who embraced a view that all religions lead to the same god. I know that Jesus was exclusive in His claims. However, I once believed that all religions lead to the same god. I stepped back into the past when I used to believe that, and talked about how I felt at the time, and then shared the initial thing that made me start to consider Christianity alone. The guy I was talking to received this well, and we had plenty of laughs about other less serious topics as well. But I said it in a way, God help me, that was simply sharing a piece of my story.
There are obviously other ways to communicate things graciously, but these have been some pointers that have helped me on the journey from being a total loudmouth to actually being tactful!
- Mary Cheney and Liz Cheney Facebook Feud Over Gay Marriage Gets Heated (americanlivewire.com)
- Cheneys Defend Elder Daughter in Feud on Gay Marriage (nytimes.com)
- Cheney family feud: Dick sides with Liz (msnbc.com)
- Cheney for Senate – Mary, that is (washingtonpost.com)
- In Cheneys’ Gay Marriage Feud, Parents Defend Liz (nytimes.com)
- Liz Cheney sparks family feud (msnbc.com)
- Dick Cheney daughters in gay feud (bbc.co.uk)