Knowing When to Disengage

Christmas-dinner

Christmas is a wonderful time for holiday parties and family reunions. But many of us dread these get-togethers because of the inevitable disagreements and heated discussions that are sure to take place. For some of us, it takes a lot of joy out of the holiday season. I think all of us have had disagreements at one time or other with people. The sin nature we are born with makes it impossible for us all to get along 24/7. Even Christians. Perhaps it is even harder for us because we know that we should get along!

So what happens when you just can’t see eye to eye with someone?  I am still growing in this area but I have learned a few things.

First, it is best to ask a few questions–

Does this really matter? Will I care in 50 years? 10 years? Tomorrow?

If I don’t get my own way in this, what will happen?

If I do get my own way, what will it cost me?

If it really doesn’t matter, then it may be time to back down. I am still working on this, but the Lord has really been teaching me. Why argue over something that happened 20 years ago? My memory is terrible and I’ve learned that I am wrong at least 90% of the time.

It is also good to consider the ramifications of winning and losing an argument. We may “win”, but in the process lose respect. And we may lose and find that it doesn’t matter at all.

We can answer these questions quickly and easily in our head to see if we should disengage. Think about all the little stuff that starts arguments and end up turning into grudges that often last a lifetime. Seriously. Families, churches, and work cultures are destroyed over the silliest things.

Does it really matter? Asking this question has really helped me with the inane, unimportant disagreements.

But what about the topics that really do matter? How do we handle debates and discussions we have regarding religion, politics, entertainment, how to raise kids, or treat elderly parents? These conversations encompass abortion, homosexuality, gun control, education, and racism. And we haven’t even mentioned the long-standing disagreements over various biblical doctrines and theology. Let’s face it–there are a lot of things that truly do matter in life. And many of us have very strong opinions about these really important issues. Now what?

We need to consider two things as we take part in these deeper, more philosophical, discussions–

1. How am I presenting myself in this disagreement? What tone am I using? Am I growing frustrated? If you find that your words have become arrogant and rude and the discussion is growing heated, then it is time to step back and disengage yourself from the conversation. We can quickly ruin our Christian testimony by how we handle these situations.

2. Will I change this person’s mind? If the person is adamantly arguing against creation or the right to life or against some other clear principle from God’s Word and you see no softening of the heart and absolutely no interest in your point of view, then it’s time to disengage and pray instead. Never discount prayer. Even the hardest heart can be changed. But it won’t be by you or me. Only God can change a heart. Start praying and always be ready for opportunities that may open for a good, healthy discussion in the future. You just never know when one will be dropped in your lap!

I do offer one word of caution. It is so critical that we look to God’s Word and see what He has to say on these issues. Of course, not all things are crystal clear in scripture, but our opinions should always be drawn first and foremost from the principles within God’s Word or they can do great, long-term damage. Consider Karl Marx or Charles Darwin for just a moment. The strong opinions of these men, drawn from wrong premises, have affected the lives of millions and millions of people in a very negative way. It is so very important that our opinions are based on the Word of God and not drawn from our own human experiences or emotions.

And one final–but extremely important–thought. If we find ourselves in one of these heated discussions, let’s try to assume that the other person may not truly understand just how hurtful their tone sounded or how angry their words were and extend grace. I try to offer this grace to the other person because I know that sometimes I am misunderstood, too, and I hope that people will extend the same grace towards me.

So this holiday season, let’s try to anticipate our family reunions and work parties with great joy, remembering that they do not need to be dominated by unpleasant conversations and heated debates. Let’s disengage ourselves before we sin and instead be a bearer of peace and selflessness this holiday season. And, by all means, let us offer grace and mercy to those who offend us. For that is exactly what the Christ Child did for us, after all.

 

 I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

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