When is Right Wrong?

by Harvey Hook

“One of the sincerest forms of respect is listening to what someone has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill

TIME Magazine named Donald Trump 2016 “Person of the Year” and pronounced him “President of the Divided States of America.” Since November, the kitchen table, water cooler, and social media conversations continue their unabated heated presence in our lives.

Respectful conversations between friends and acquaintances have disintegrated into innuendo, accusation, judgment, and “got’chas!”  Rodney King’s plea of, “Can’t we all get along?” has been replaced by, “I’m right, you’re wrong, get outta my face!”

So, when is right wrong?

  • Right being: my opinion on the issue is correct.
  • Right being: your position on the issue is inferior and wrong.
  • Right is wrong when we stop listening and start judging.
  • Right is wrong when we ignore these words of counsel: “Don’t judge, because the speck of sawdust in their eye, pales in comparison to the wooden plank in your own eye.” (The Harvey Hook, roughly translated, version of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-3)

It is rapidly becoming commonplace to equate the worth of a person with the position they hold on disputed matters.  Why is it that people who hold the ‘superior viewpoint’ on any issue are so quick to dismiss, devalue, and ridicule others?  If the viewpoint is superior, shouldn’t the character with which it is communicated and expressed be above reproach as well?

Here are some thoughts to consider that may not change the opinion of another but may lower your blood pressure and maintain some friendships. Before I begin, please know, I too, hold some strong opinions; and while I wholeheartedly believe some of my views are absolutely correct, I hold others that flux based upon new information and experiences.

3 Things to Consider When Dealing with Combative Opinions

See the Person First – None of us know what it is like to walk in the shoes of another. Every person sees the world through the unique front window experiences of their own lives. When we equate their opinion with who they are, we make a grave mistake. When we do, it becomes the expressway to judgment.

It was never the intent of Jesus to win an argument.  When he dined with Zacchaeus, the corrupt tax collector, or spoke with the adulterous woman at the well, his intent was never to tell them they were wrong.  He engaged them as they were, affirmed their worth as equals with all humanity, and began a relational journey that eventually led them to the discovery of true life.  If we applaud Jesus for doing that, maybe we should be willing to do it ourselves.

Mackenzie, the main character in the current popular movie The Shack, is told by Papa (God the Father): “Remember, the people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda.” I sometimes wonder if our agenda is so shallow as to get another person to agree with us instead of loving them for who they are regardless of our differences.

Be Transparent – Being transparent destroys the boundaries between us, our opinions, and our public fronts.  Transparency creates a pathway by which others can connect with us. Transparency reveals our willingness to be known for who we are. Transparency allows our character to be revealed in uncompromising and yet refreshing ways. Transparency leads to authentic relationships. It’s in the authenticity of a relationship that we are best suited to engage the hearts and minds of others different from us. Transparency beats bullhorns every time!

State Your Case – Let me say it again: state your case. Everyone benefits when we present our views with substance, passion, and thoughtfulness. We should present our views in the most compelling manner possible.  nd after that, it’s our responsibility to “let it go,”–win, lose or draw. To be truly free is to exercise the power and the humility to let go of that which we cannot change.  Is it the things we hang on to that we control or that control us?

In the end, you or I may not win the argument, we may not change their mind, but we will honor their individual dignity, and this is the best way to keep our relationships intact.

“Lead with your ears, follow with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” James 1:19, The Message

Thanks for Listening.

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