Knowing where we stand on our own values is a great place to start on learning to steer through the dangers of our modern world.
Then I move onto other people and their expectations.
I have come to the conclusion that just because someone disagrees with me they are not necessarily my enemy. While I might not agree with your stand on same sex marriage or on abortion; maybe we can find common ground on helping those experiencing poverty. I don't have to agree with you on every topic. You have your reasons for your beliefs and I hold to mine. We may never be best friends and we may never come to an agreement on some of the more difficult topics in our era. But if I want to steer successfully; I need to be able to be compassionate regardless of our positions.
But I also need to share that if our relationship is to grow we need to be able to share our positions as adults without name calling or attacking. We need to stick with truth and discuss these things from time to time. We don't ignore the disagreement, but we choose to be civil.
As a community we have been divided and we can blame media or government but the truth is that it is our own fault. We have chosen to hate our neighbor, to see them as an issue rather than as a person. Can we vow to ignore those who would want to divide our community into whatever groups suit their purposes? I think that we must.
Steering through our modern culture is a real challenge. But if you want to steer effectively it is going to take real work. Too many people believe that if they share complaints or discuss social justice issues on Facebook that they have done their job. That is not tough. It is not really risky. That is one venue. But toughness is getting involved. Instead of demanding the government to go out and solve our problems, go out and get involved. Find the real truth. Investigate action steps that can take place.
Example: Instead of slamming politicians for cutting welfare programs go out and help your neighbor. Get to know them and help them to get a job, get food and get healing.
Complaining may be ok but it solves nothing. Steering cannot happen in a parked car whether that is in a garage or in front of a TV.
Steering through our modern culture will require that we take time to listen with an intention to understand the position of others. After listening can we work to come up with a solution that works for all parties? Where can we work with others? If we can not agree then is there a way that we can at least not work in opposition of each other? This will not always be possible. How can light and dark work together? They can’t is the simple answer. Those that market hate, murder and sin cannot be compromised with; but can we hear them. Are there other areas where we might be able to agree? Not all roads will get us to Heaven, nor to the Promised Land. So the difficulty lies in the question how do we work with those that are in the extremes? There are no easy answers and I am not sure that I have even the beginning of an answer. Part of that answer sits in the idea that this person you disagree with is a human being, not a monster. All sides try to portray the other side as Adolf Hitler or as Satan, himself. This is typically not true. Hold to truth but part of that truth is that they are human. Pray with others and for others. Love them even if they hate you. It seems that is something Jesus did routinely. Remember that He prayed for those that were driving nails into His Body. He forgave those that had insulted Him and beat Him. They were wrong, but He loved them anyway. Can we do the same?
Planning, think through what you would like to accomplish this day, this week, this month or even this year. How are you going to define success for this day? Will that require anyone else to make it happen? If so how will you influence that person to partner with you on these sorts of goals?
Create a plan that enables you to live a life that makes today a success but also keeps you on track for your longer range goals. Create a vision of a successful life and consider what that looks like physically, mentally, Spiritually and socially. Move toward that dream daily. Consider every choice. Will this choice draw me closer to my dream or could it potentially destroy my hopes?
A great habit is to create a plan for your week that takes all of these things into consideration. Make sure that these plans are actually doable. In other words you do need sleep so plan to sleep. You do need to eat, so plan to eat. You do need time to travel from location to location. Take all of these things into consideration as you make your plans. Practice, most of the people that I know are flying by the seat of their pants almost every day and never consider that they could practice a bit and get better. For example: Are you going to have a difficult conversation with a co worker. Instead of just winging it, go to someone that you trust and practice the conversation. Ask them to make it difficult with assorted reactions and arguments. All of these things come together to make us better communicators. Yes it takes time. But weeds grow overnight with little effort. The oak tree grows slow and sure and with much struggle but the tree will outlast the weed and has greater value. Find time to practice everything. This could be cooking, sewing, music or whatever. Practice often and make the practice more difficult than the real thing.
Selflessness, when we get too focused on ourselves we quickly discover that we are all alone when we let ourselves down. Take the time to reach out and care about others. It is too easy to write them off. “Oh I helped a guy once. He turned out to be a fraud.” Who cares? Help the next person. You might change their lives. That life you change might actually change the world.
There is a story of a moment when Robert Lincoln was almost struck by a train when he fell off a station waiting area. The man who rescued him at great personal risk was John Wilkes Booth. That moment of saving a child could have saved the President the grief that would have pushed him over the edge. John Wilkes Booth who a few years later would do so much damage to our nation saved the nation for awhile longer.
Conflict resolution, I hate to disagree with people. Rocking the boat leads to many people getting wet and much discomfort. But we must choose to engage in conflict if we hope to navigate these rough waters. There is much conflict in our world. What we are proposing here though is actually looking at how we can do this in a way that is healthy and good for us and for society. What we most see in the media is name calling and other childish forms of conflict. Everyone is aiming for sound bites and a moment of fame. One position focused on demonizing the opposing side. Rising above the standard of our society will require us to take a slower process to our conflicts. This week the small groups are going to take a look at conflict resolution.”
The room was a little quiet for Mike’s comfort but he expected that to be the case. As normal some decided that it was time to go for the night; but most made their way to the small groups.
Santa looked deliberately looked into the eyes of everyone in the group before starting. “You will not experience this life without conflict. The sources of conflict are far too many too prevent them from coming up. When you take time to break it down every conflict stems from one or more of the following: money, ego, power and boredom. Take a moment to consider how easily fights take place over the toilet seat (up or down) or how the toothpaste is rolled neatly or simply squeezed from the middle. Couples have divorced over such issues. Some will run to work to avoid these conflicts only to be dealing with conflict there with a more political bent over differing goals and expectations. There is no escape, even at play. I once saw a man arrested for threatening an umpire at a little league game. While there are reasons to try to avoid conflict there are more reasons to cause us to wade into the uncomfortable waters of conflict. Among these are the pain of divorce, lack of productivity at work and a myriad of health issues both physical and mental. Step one is that we must take time to engage in conflict. The cost of not doing so is simply too high. Beyond that, once you decide that you have the heroic courage to step into conflict the four steps that I will share with you will help you immensely.”
Santa looked around and watched as everyone started taking notes. He had some handouts but decided that he would wait until the end to hand them out.
“So step one is to find out more about your opposition and share more about yourself. What makes each of you tick? What is important to you? How does each of you typically react to conflict? Really strive to get to know each other. It helps to share your name and set some ground rules. Some things like sharing that you don’t deal well with cursing or you might share that certain terms are personally offensive. Other things to share are to describe a situation where conflict went well for you. Finish up this step by pointing out specifically anything that you can share that added to the success of that conflict resolution.
Step two is to take an honest look at yourself. Ask what you think this conflict is all about? Ask what you think they think the conflict is all about? Why does this bother you? The whole purpose of this step really is seek an understanding of this specific conflict.
Step three is to actually talk to the other person. Conflict often grows as we share it with others or when it is sitting in our own minds and hearts. Small conflicts grow when we don’t talk to the person involved. Take the time in this step to listen as much as you speak. Watch your tone of voice and guard your facial gestures. Finally, you will take on step four and seek a solution. Most of the time, you are going to look for something beyond compromise. Hopefully you are able to find a solution that is a win for everybody. Always at least look for a third solution.”
As the group broke up there was much conversation about divorces and other broken relationships that may have been saved if they would have worked out such a process. Most left for the evening deep in thought.