People feel strongly about different topics and issues. Some topics have to do with religion, others may be about politics, some bring up ideas of animals and how they should be treated, while still others will discuss all kinds of human rights. Of course, this list could go on and on and on and, well, you get the idea.
There was a time in my life when I didn't speak out on issues. I figured that people had a right to feel what they felt for whatever reasons that they felt that way and it wasn't my place to shake that up. Also, I feel incredibly uncomfortable with conflict and, therefore, I will generally stay as far away from any kind of conversation that may center on differing opinions.
Growing up, my family wasn't too keen on debating issues. Someone was right. Someone was wrong. Often, whoever spoke the loudest or most sarcastically won the argument. Looking back, I'm not sure what exactly was "won" and so very much was lost. Even today, many topics cannot be discussed in my family because differing opinions can't seem to be discussed, appreciation and tolerance can't be given to the other "side". What a shame that is for us all.
My thoughts on some issues have changed throughout the years. And, I would guess, that some issues I feel a certain way about now may also change as the years continue to pass. What has made the difference? Knowledge. Openness. Delivery.
Knowledge. You only know what you know. If you fail to seek out new information then you are left primarily in one spot with no real room to grow, stretch, and expand. Many of my opinions changed or became stronger based on information that I would get from other people, from reading, from living.
Openness. If you aren't open to opposing viewpoints or ideas then how will you ever learn the merit of what is being shared? If you aren't challenged in what you think then how do you know how it balances up against what other people think? Your beliefs may be bolstered by what you hear or a seed may be planted that will grow and allow you to change the way you think. If you aren't open, think of all you may miss out on in the world.
Delivery. This is critical. How is the message delivered? It is so vitally important that we meet people where they are with kindness and love and tolerance. Our message will be lost if we don't do that. Who is our audience? The message will not be received if you aren't delivering it to who it needs to reach. This makes me think of someone who is in a dark room. Maybe you have an idea or thought you want to share with them. If they are in a dark room it can be startling to just throw the door open and shine a bright light on them. Sometimes we need to crack open the door and put the lights up slowly.
There have been many instances I have dug my heals in on something I thought because I wasn't open, didn't appreciate the delivery, and, therefore, was not open to new knowledge. For example, I remember a very well meaning faith filled friend who was sharing the benefits of a certain devotion of our faith. At the time, she was so in my face and telling me with great insistence that I must do this devotion. I was so turned off I went home and put the information that was given out of my mind. As the years went by and I learned more about this fabulous devotion through other avenues, I opened my heart and it is now a devotion which I dearly love. The initial delivery, unfortunately, caused me to take much longer to come around to the beauty of this prayer.
Another dear friend just recently shared her experience with a pro-life advocate. As she was exiting the expressway with her family she came to a red light where someone was standing with a large image of an aborted baby. When she told the gentlemen that she had children in the car, he moved forward and thrust the image closer to the family. He had no idea if this family was pro-life or pro-choice, yet he pushed this image into the children's minds. What a sad breakdown in what could have been a positive message for protecting life.
The scenario with my friend's family saddens me for many reasons. The delivery was all wrong. Who is this man's audience? Are these images for children to see? I would say no. Who was this man's target? Does he think that someone will be open to his message if they feel violated? Maybe it would indeed be helpful for an adult to see some of these images in order to demonstrate the vileness of abortion on these little babies. However, I do not agree that standing on the side of the road with an image like this is the way to do it.
We are called to stand for the truth and share that with people even if it will not be readily accepted. I believe this with all my heart. Because of this, I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone to share my thoughts and beliefs with people. This is rarely easy. I try to be kind and loving and tolerant of other people and I truly try to meet people where they are. In doing this, I attempt to remember all the different places people have had to meet me, all the different places people will still have to meet me on this journey to enlighten me, bolster me, change me, and help me through.
Do I always do this well? I doubt it. However, I keep trying. And I pray that as I go along I get bolder in my courage to share what I'm thinking and that God will help me to deliver the message thoughtfully. Otherwise, how can I hope to meet people where they are at the moment? And I also pray that God will push me to continue to seek knowledge and be open to what other's have to say. Otherwise, how will I learn and grow from all the wonderful wisdom you dear friends have for me?
"But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong." 1 Peter 3:15-17