|I knew "LOVE" wasn't spelled that way...|
A long while ago I was frustrated with someone. I wasn't sure I agreed with what they were doing (because cleeeaarly I have all of life's answers) and I cared enough about them that I really didn't want to see them do something that (in my only-sometimes-right-opinion) might not have been wise. I had brought up my concern but this seemed to have no effect on the situation.
But as I vented to a trusted friend about the issue she brought up a very good point that has stuck with me all these years, and has probably saved a friendship or two.
Although I will butcher this paraphrase so badly that if my friend reads it she likely won't realize she said it, here is essentially what she told me: If you've brought up your concern, you can't keep bringing it up- you have to let it go. Because if you keep nagging someone, it can only end badly. Assuming they continue to do what you disagree with, they will either find that their life is just fine despite all your know-it-all hounding and they will consequently resent your presence in their life-because you didn't believe in them or their decision. OR you may be totally right and the direction they are going may end up poorly for them...but even in that case, why would they come running back to you when things fall apart if all they experienced from you was negativity and judgement? If you value this person and their friendship, you can bring up your concern but then you have to let them make their own choice from there and just be a supportive friend.
Crap, she was right. Thankfully I took her advice.
Isn't it funny- that we can "love" someone all the wrong way- we can love them so much that we want to prevent them from making mistakes by speaking into their life through the lens of our own. (Spoiler- it's not going to look the same.) We think we can argue someone into a better choice- debate someone into a different way of thinking. And all the while we have the gall to believe they should value us for it? Come running to us for advice? Consider us a close friend?
I think many Christians probably have an especially hard time with this. Maybe you see someone who doesn't seem to have their life together, or who is making choices you consider morally questionable, or who doesn't believe what you do. And our natural thought is that by sharing what we believe with them, we will make their life better.
The problem is three-fold: first, we somehow have it in our head that to love someone means to push as hard as we can on them until they buckle and see like we do. Or to judge and picket someone until they change their mind (and not just when it comes to the publicized issues of same sex marriage or abortion- we do this with people who seem too materialistic, too atheistic, too liberal, too conservative, too whatever doesn't sit right with us.)
Honestly, putting aside for a second whether you are even right or wrong, does that work for you? If someone says they don't agree with you and rams their disagreement down your throat every time they see you, do you think, "Ooooooooh, I didn't really want to listen the first 50 times, but now that I hear your angry rant a 51st time I've finally seen the light! Bless you, Saint!" ?? (Or are you plotting an elaborate scheme that involves switching their chapstick with crazy glue.) Anger and arguing don't make a very convincing case for anything.
Second, (and I'm so guilty of this), is that it is impossible for us to be angry, argumentative, and self-righteous while simultaneously offering the message of love, peace, and hope that Jesus lived. Doesn't matter who you are talking to. The minute we assume that someone is wrong and it is "our job" to fix them, we have missed the mark already. There's this tension...because quite often we think we are doing someone a favor. But the truth is that any good that will ever happen in a person's life will not be because of us- it will be because of Love- personified. Assuming we really believe that the love of Jesus is stronger than argument- stronger than anything.
Third- how many times throughout history has someone picked up a sword or a pitchfork or whatever to defend what they believed to be "Biblical"? I'm a firm believer in the Bible, but I am not so arrogant as to think that I understand the whole thing. And I also believe that it is easy to misconstrue pieces of the Bible to defend what you want to believe. If we are too quick to be argumentative- too quick to assume we are always right- then we do not leave room for the possibility that some of what we believe may be wrong- that someone ELSE may be able to speak into OUR lives. (Because heaven forbid someone who doesn't even believe what I believe might actually speak truth into my life!)
So go out and relax a little and just love someone- just be their friend. If nothing else you might find it a whole lot less stressful.
"19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."
1 Peter 3:15-16
"15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (emphasis mine)
Labels: Judgmentalism, Love Others