Tag Archives: reconciliation

After The Election, Will You Be a Divider or a Healer?

Barring an election night dispute, on Wednesday morning we will wake up to a world in which the 45th President of the United States will be President-elect Donald John Trump or President-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton. When we head out for the day, almost every person we meet will feel elated and optimistic or scared and angry. The rest will have slumped into an apathetic “whatever”.

We can also expect that the President-elect will have to work with a divided Congress, nation, and world.

The Senate will most likely revert to Democratic control while the House remains under Republican control, meaning that whoever is elected President will face the same potential for gridlock and who-will-blink-first-showdowns we’ve seen for the past six years.

Outside of the Washington, the President-elect will face an American population more bitterly divided than at any time in our history, second only to the tumult leading up to our Civil War.

Beyond our shores, he or she will face a Middle East on the brink of region-wide war and nuclear proliferation, a crumbling European Union, the continuing rise of China, a North Korea with expanding nuclear weaponry, and a growing Russian geopolitical domination that has been decisively anti-western.

During times of such peril and division, we look to our leaders to be the great problem solvers and peacemakers. Yet how many presidential and congressional candidates have we elected to “fix the mess in Washington” and provide leadership to the free world, only to find them mired and absorbed into the same messes? It proves that our leaders are a reflection of We the People, and if we are divided and unable to resolve our own conflicts, how can we reasonably expect the politicians we elect to do any better?

img_1030So no matter who becomes the next President-elect this week, you and I will have an equally critical choice to make. Will we be a divider or a healer? Will the things we say, the attitudes we harbor, and the way we treat our neighbors and our leaders stir up further division or offer a balm of healing? While our choice of the next President will be highly consequential to our country and world, the way you and I choose to carry on in the wake of this election will be even more consequential. It’s a choice each of us will make, intentionally or unintentionally, and our choices will reverberate for years to come.

I think we all know what divisive behavior and attitudes look like. So let me offer some ideas on what a healer looks like.

  • Healers carefully measure how they talk about leaders with whom they disagree and the folks who vote for them. Instead of launching ad hominem attacks, resorting to shrill cries that the sky is falling and the antichrist has arrived, or parading around unchecked, unsubstantiated statements about the other side, healers listen and then calmly share their views with the intention of establishing common ground.
  • Instead of looking at the other side with incredulity and spite, healers try very hard to understand what others are saying and what drives them to say those things. Healers empathize with what’s at stake within opposition voices, even when they disagree with how opposing voices see the challenges in our world and their proposed remedies.
  • Rather than taking to social media to spout off their political and social views, which really takes no discipline or real courage to do, healers think twice about what they post. Healers aim to share things that move their social network to think deeply and join in respectful conversation.
  • Instead of attacking the character, intelligence, and perceived motivations of leaders they disagree with, healers respect the office of that leader and offer alternative ideas, even passionately, with the motivation of reaching consensus, not victory over the opposition.
  • Rather than mocking and vilifying opposition voices, healers make every opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation based on respect for the other.

All of this points to a critical question: after this election, will you be a healer or a divider? If you say “neither” while complaining about our divisiveness, your abstention vote goes right to the dividers. Those who sit in apathy and quiet cynicism are just as deadly to our communal health as the ones who are actively dividing us. They simply add to the negativity.

So… in the post-election season, I’ve got several ideas for you to try.

First, if you can’t control your propensity to gloat or rant on social media, do the rest of a favor and go read a book, take a long walk, or sign out for a few weeks or months. Please.

Second, find someone who voted differently than you and have lunch. Make it your goal to learn more about their desires, fears, hopes and dreams. Then establish some places for you both to come together. Short of that, just listen to understand. It will be worth it.

Third, trust that no matter what happens, people are people, and so are you. If you can’t identify with other people- the “them” people- on some basic level, then make that a worthwhile goal. Listen and identify with people on their terms. Sure, if you do, the partisan dividers will call you weak-spined, unprincipled, a sell out, etc. Whatever. Any effort you make will bring healing to our nation and world.

And remember, anything we do to bring healing to our nation and our world, no matter how small or quiet, will indeed make a huge difference, mostly because there are so few healers out there. But you and I can be one of them, if we dare to have the love, courage, and grace to do it.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:9‬

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Grappling with Disappointment

disappointment valleyI recently received an e-mail from someone who listed off a whole list of grievances detailing things I had done or failed to do that angered and disappointed them. The e-mail concluded with a statement to the effect that I have failed to live what I preach. (My first gut reaction to that last statement was, “I could have told you that years ago and saved you the trouble!” Look hard enough at me, spend enough time with me, and yes, you will find that I am riddled with inconsistency and flaws, just like everyone else. I only strive to do what I preach, praying one day to get it right, in the mean time living by grace with myself and with others.)

But still, that e-mail was a painfully jagged pill to swallow. It was hurtful and embarrassing.  I did not want to launch into  hyper-defense mode and make a tit-for-tat counter argument that deflects any responsibility and throws back all the blame. On the other hand, I didn’t want to issue a half-hearted blanket apology laced with sappy remorse against a backdrop of woe-is-me self-crucifixion. Either extreme would have been a failure to own up to reality. If I was going to respond, I needed to carefully take responsibility for my wrongs, ask forgiveness, clarify things, and yes, state my own case for their wrong done in this situation, free from anger and innuendo. Tall order… But with God, all things are possible.

Of course, even my best efforts at a fair e-mail will most likely do nothing to satiate the person’s anger with me. E-mails never do that, so I can’t put unrealistic expectations on it. Sometimes there’s nothing I can do except give it to God and let it go, trusting that in time there may be more room for peacemaking. Or there may not be. Either way, I can only do what I can do.

Still, I have been anguishing the fact that I could let someone down like this, no matter how the blame or responsibility should be doled out. “You let me down…” Of all things that could I could bear to hear, that is among the absolute worst. I failed.

Admittedly, some of the anguish I feel stems from one of my incessant liabilities: my need for approval and affirmation. In other words, if you like me and what I do, I interpret that to mean that I’m worthy. However, if you don’t like me or what I do, I interpret that to mean I’m a failure. I’ve come a long way in my adult life to identify and diffuse this liability, but in situations like these, it always attempts to rear its pathetically ugly head. This ugly monster only knows two lines of fire: angry rebuke or playing the martyr, depending on what works best. Part of my response has been putting this monster back in its place.

Personal liabilities aside, I still grieve the situation and grieve my own failures. I have apologized, asked forgiveness, and am prepared to make whatever reasonable amends I can. In all reality, it comes down to accepting that this will have to do. It’s good enough for now.

I’m learning again that a primary key to peace is learning how to live with disappointment– with others, with myself, and even with God. The only remedy I’m aware of right now is grace. Grace is the key to forgiving myself, allowing myself to live with the reality that I have, I can, and I will fail. Others will, too. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). If only all people in a conflict could love like this, there would be enough will to diffuse even the most raging forms of anger.

God's RagamuffinMaybe I could carry around a business card to give people when I first meet them. Under my name, it will say “God’s Ragamuffin” followed by a disclaimer. “Warning: at some point I will frustrate, disappoint, and fail you. I ask your forgiveness in advance.” Then perhaps they will give me their card, identical in every respect except for the name. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

All in all, I am indeed a ragamuffin. I’m a patchwork of success and failure, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, gifts and liabilities,  strengths and weaknesses. This crazy patchwork is sewn onto the fabric of God’s love by a God who daily shows me what it means to forgive the many times I fail, not because God is obliged to, but because my Abba Father truly, deeply loves me.

After all, I am a beloved child of God, more than the sum total of my life’s victories and defeats. I just need to keep reminding myself of that, and perhaps it will give me the confidence and wisdom to avoid putting all my life’s stock in either my strengths or my weaknesses, but in Christ who resurrects me above and beyond mere flesh and blood. Of course, the same reality applies to others, especially to the person who sent me that e-mail!

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