Updated: Feb 5
How not to spiral into unfruitful conversations at gatherings
Do you have a habit you default into that you absolutely wish you could shake? Whether it is always having the most awkward thing to say, forgetting someone's name, or having a dish not turn out right, time spent socially with family and friends is always fertile ground for our insecurities to grow obvious horns.
Have you ever spent some time with someone and a subject came up, then out comes the fruit of years of disagreements, unresolved resentment, and one sided squabbles laid at the foot of your listener? Sometimes I note the route I'm going and brake traction. Other times, the train chugs on. I end up asking myself questions later about why I went off on this topic, person, or problem. #politics #relationships #trump #biden #news #vaccines #masks #family #school #momlife #holidays #dinner
What was the point of that story?
Why did I want to air out a problem without the problem person there?
The deeper dig there is, why do I care about whose side someone is on, or why is there a need to create sides or opinions of another person if that is what sharing will ultimately do?
Is this a safe person to share with, if the need is simply to be known and loved for how I feel and what I am processing?
Can sharing/debating be a way to problem solve or foster intimacy or solidarity?
Am I respectful? (Even to celebs, politicians, people undeserving of mercy.)
Am I even clear on the problem?
Am I even clear on what the problem is? Will introducing a topic or challenge briefly give me an opportunity to listen to another person and become clearer on what the problem is?
Can sharing grow me in holiness (and sometimes, it does depending on if you are sensitive to the other questions?
Sometimes I ask myself these questions and see that I should have just chilled out and changed the course of the convo, or that I did learn something from the conversation.
Often times I get a rebuke, and those are precious too, if you and I are willing to process those through people who love us and have our best health minded in their responses.
Let the righteous man strike me; let his rebuke be an act of loving devotion. It is oil for my head; let me not refuse it.
Other times, I realize, this person will never get my point to meet a need here, nor is this even bonding us in sharing close info. I note that and stay away from certain topics later.
The Bible says that," And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. - James 3:6" Time spent refining conversations with questions like those are not wasted time, but can enhance that time spent in conversation to burn bright for Jesus.
I have had so many failed conversations where I left feeling dirty - I had just complained about another person... and to what end? I couldn't say. People say venting is healthy, but for me the meter is how I feel later. In a way, its a lot like sex. The act feels stimulating, like a release - but later we gauge the health of it on how we feel the next day. Was is something that glorified God, or something that stained His image bared in us?
Conversations do this - they either respect a person, even within their imperfections, or they sling mud. And thinking of slinging mud - what if we invited God to show His hand at molding us as a potter shapes muddy clay? The material - mud, clay - is the same. Through whose wisdom do we filter our words so they can be useful? Do we just waste our words slinging mud instead of submitting over as clay to be shaped?
No conversation will be perfectly holy. I know this and I have given myself grace for this. Many people don't quite get that my writing is about grace. I have a lot of advice, soul scouring, and people may mistake that as not being full of grace. But what is grace, if there is no error? Talking with other people, and listening to them, doing it in a good way (like how us and the garden are good) requires much humility, respect, reserve, wisdom, and pauses to think. A good pause can save us from that dirty feeling later.
I also embrace that icky feeling as knowing I am a person who cares, even for my enemies. I doesn't do my soul good to gossip, thank and praise God, I care. Think of people in your life who don't - can you trust them? Do trust anything they say? It is important to reflect, and reflection reflects that we care. So there's this feeling of guilt, but also of being formed and held into a clearer image of Christ.
Last night I spiraled, and felt here and there about it. I stopped after a quick rebuke. She was right. Ok. So...to gossip more is going nowhere. I stopped. When is that last time you purposefully stopped?
Even online, this is important. Those comment streams are reviewed by people who don't know and value you and who now have license to weaponize your written words against you. I have a pdf here called Posting like Paul https://www.amberlinbooks.com/free-downloadthat is a guide to online habits. I was the WORST about the time Hillary Clinton was running for president. I remember only a couple of comment conversations on FB that changed my mind about anything. Interestingly, they short, a line or two, never a back and forth. That's my new model, if I don't abstain all together. DM's are a nice invitation to conversation too, if you feel that one would be edifying.
What's our point?
Who are we pointing to?
Who are we helping or uplifting ? Sometimes we find the next day that we weren't even helping ourselves.
When you get together in your smaller social gatherings this year, remember that we are prohibited from course talk, busy bodying, and useless debates by Paul's writings. This is not just because they are sinful, but there just isn't abundant life in regrets later.
Here is a good list to start from, if you like to have scriptures to go to for clarity.
so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I was only joking!"
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Furthermore, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, He gave them up to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen.
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.