The stakes are truly high without grace. Being candid with those whom you disagree can cost you something very tangible like your job and, even worse, the intangible yet invaluable good--your reputation. One “wrong” statement or opinion can forever alter your present and future. The very integrity I have tried so hard to live can be rendered moot by one interaction, one simple opinion fraying it completely.
The Bible says that “a good name is more desirable than great riches.” (Proverbs 22:1) But, how do we deal with a vitriolic culture that can wreck your name because you view the world differently than it does? The coldness of our world scares me completely. As David says in Psalm 69, “Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.” (20)
Sadly, another level of malice is often layered to our disagreements. If one is on “the wrong side of an issue,“ many people often declare the person with the other viewpoint to be “evil,” as well as ignorant, spreading further malice. When I think of someone who is evil, I think of the Devil, Hitler, Stalin, terrorists. Sadly, we are calling our neighbors, friends, church members, fellow citizens with this same term just because we disagree. And, it is utterly suffocating.
I humbly argue that contempt is the true evil here. For, when we feel contempt, we secretly believe in our soul that we are “better” than others, more enlightened, etc. While stroking our egos, we secretly wish others could be like us— so rational, intelligent, and advanced. Oxford Living Dictionary gives this definition for contempt—“The feeling that a person or a thing is worthless or beneath consideration.” How aptly this describes our culture right now when we disagree; we are so swift to completely render others “worthless.”
Sadly, most of us choose not to do the hard work of truly, vitally disagreeing with someone while keeping his/her motives and humanity in check. It is much easier to write off people as “quacks” than to hear their hearts, even if you think their conclusions are fundamentally, ethically, morally, and even egregiously wrong.
Being a Christian is helping me challenge this tendency in myself. Because of my beliefs, I think all humans are made in God’s image—the Imago Dei, and this belief catches me in my contempt. When I remember we are made in His image, it is harder to hate, harder to dismiss, harder to compartmentalize someone into a “bad” category. Even my “enemies” in ideology are stamped with the divine.
What does this mean for me? Right now, it means that I have decided not to put myself out there politically/ideologically in the social media realm. That could certainly change, but for now, it helps me practice what I preach— to dialogue with humans face-to-face or one-on-one regarding these hard issues, forcing me to surrender contempt as I stare into someone’s eyes, smile, and frown.
But, I am not running, so if you want to know my view on abortion, immigration, refugees and vetting, President Trump, Democrats, Republicans, theology, marriage and gender issues, or just anything in general, please email me so that we can have a personal chat. I will gladly tell you all these things in relationship but not on social media where it is too easy for me to hide and not look into your eyes. We must see each other as human during these hard, vital, crazy, emotional, but, hopefully, respectful conversations/debates.
I ask you to join with me in fighting this contempt that so easily creeps into our insecure and vain souls. No matter how you feel led to share your opinions to the world, I pray you would lay down your contempt as you do it. I am trying right along with you, battling often on my knees to do this very thing.
May humility be the cloak we wear and grace be the fragrance we leave when we share our opinions.