A member of the small group I was leading left the group, telling me that she could not stay in the group because she felt my Facebook posts were “unchristian.”
She is a Liberal Democrat and I’m a Conservative sort-of-Libertarian. We saw political issues and school board policies from different points of view, and arrived at different answers for fixing problems facing our country and school system.
She said my posts were nasty and negative, and that I was “trash talking” and “name calling.”
Which is ridiculous. Anyone who knows me, knows I have standards, and I never, ever name-call or deride someone. I constantly post scripture and inspiring quotes…and stories…and pictures of family and friends. (I post a lot, that’s why I’m leaving Facebook. I need to concentrate on other stuff. *Update: I came back to fb, but in a calmer fashion and I don’t post nearly as much as I did. You can find me at Catherine Anne Lewis.*) While, I have opinions on the best way to resolve issues and govern, I never allow anger to seep into my stance.
She just couldn’t see past those comments about what I believe is best for our country and our local school system, which were not in alignment with her views. I mean, who can’t resist a ‘Great Dane who adopts a kitten’ video? She just couldn’t see the good.
She ended her email with this warning: “Please be aware that several other people in the group have expressed the same sentiments. That your posts have not reflected the type of small group leader they want to follow.”
Her words were hurtful and almost seemed crafted to inflict damage. Maybe, maybe not, but they jabbed hard at my insecurities. As a child of divorce who had my caregivers leave me and not take care of me, I’m prone to insecurity about people leaving me. In the past, I’ve held on fast to people, long after our season has ended. I believe that people come into your life for a season, and some stay longer than others, but everyone has a season. Maybe a choice few will last a lifetime, but most come in and out of our lives to guide us, teach us, love us and learn from us.
So, I’ve had to work hard to “let people go.” It’s not something that came naturally, and it took years of counseling, selfcare and hard work through practice to get to the point where I could be comfortable with people leaving me.
Her words stung. “…Not reflected the type of the small group leader they want to follow.”
Even now, that almost takes my breath away.
It cuts at the core of my deepest self-doubt, that I’m unlovable, worthless, and someone who no one likes. I’m the wall flower in the corner, the one who couldn’t get a date, the one who they laughed at and made fun of in school. Not even my dad or my mom liked me enough to raise me. And, my dad left home for a young, thin woman, so my pudgy self was even more negatively accentuated. When they called me “thunder thighs” in junior high school, it was as if they had the key to the protective cage around my heart and they could effortlessly open it up and rip out my heart. Like anyone who has walked a similar path (maybe you, dear friend?), I learned how to hide the tears and swallow the pain.
It’s amazing that people, when they feel maligned or angered, can unwittingly find the ‘hot button’ of another and press it. I think that the enemy takes a part in that. When we’re hurt or feel powerless, we lash out at others. And, we play right into the enemy’s hands because it’s when he steers our actions, not God.
That’s why it’s so important to follow God’s Word, because He knows we’ll get swept up with emotion, that we’ll do things to hurt others, whether knowingly or not, and that we need His guidance to ensure we act correctly and with love.
While the small group member didn’t handle our conflict from a Christian perspective, neither did I.
Thankfully the Holy Spirit led me so I didn’t bite back. After her initial email, I emailed her back, stating that I also post Scripture and other beautiful things. She responded again, in the same tone as the first, and I…dropped it.
The Holy Spirit said, “Stop!” And, so I did. I didn’t further explain my case or try to have her see something she was obviously blind to seeing. I wished her and her family well, many blessings, and God’s provisions on her journey.
She was obviously emotionally charged and stirred up by our different takes on things. I should have seen that, and steered her to the Bible. I should have pleaded God’s case, not my own. And, foremost, I should have insisted that we meet in person.
Maybe it would have been for naught, but I should have said, “Sister in Christ, please, please meet me in person for a coffee or lunch or on a Zoom call!” I should have begged her to see me face-to-face, and for us to reconcile, or find some common ground.
Now, maybe she wouldn’t have met with me, and that would have been her choice. But, maybe she would have…?
I learned a valuable lesson through this: I will always use God’s instruction to handle disagreements, and not try to fix them only with my own words.
Matthew 18:15-17 is the correct way to handle disputes among Christians. Not blasting off accusations in an email, staying silent, walking away, or allowing discord to fester, but by meeting face-to-face and talking it out.
“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” ~Matthew 18:15-17 (MSG)
As long as God is first, there is room for political disagreements among Christians. As long as God’s Word is paramount, there is room for different takes on issues. We can disagree on things, and still remain one in Christ.
We can be a Liberal or a Conservative or whatever, and as long as we’re acting according scripture and God’s laws, we are always Christians first.
Love others. That’s what He commanded.