How much disagreement and difference can you take in a relationship before you’re out?
I thought about that question this week as I read a piece from journalist and columnist Matt Labash. Matt, in his typical forthright style, recounts how the events of the past year brought an end to a long term friendship.
“When one old high-school buddy, a Trumpster to his core, wouldn’t stop sending me a steady stream of the-election-was-rigged conspiracy nonsense… I finally snapped by telling him he should probably give it a rest, as it was making me want to punch him in the throat. It’s a figure of speech that he took literally. I didn’t actually want to throat-punch him (well, a little). Though this caused him not to just sign off from my inbox, but from our 35-year-long friendship as well.”
I’m guessing some of you have stories like Matt’s. We’ve all watched as the tear in our national fabric has widened. Many of us have experienced the fissure up close and personal.
Labash says we’re all experiencing a pandemic that no one seems to be talking about. He calls it Anger Fever. He writes “A recent CNN poll showed three-quarters of respondents (74%) said they were either ‘very angry’ (26%) or ‘somewhat angry’ (48%)… Almost 9 in 10 Republicans (88 percent) say they are angry – including 44 percent who describe themselves as ‘very angry.’ (Sixty-seven percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents are angry to boot).”
Matt isn’t pointing fingers. Many times in the past 18 month, he says, he has himself been “excitable, intense, insufferable.” It’s hard not to get worked up when cable news, talk radio and social media algorithms are all in the business of inciting outrage and then monetizing it. The media have a lot invested in seeing that your anger fever does not break.
Along the way, Matt says, “I failed to remember the Proverbs: ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.’ I’d not only abandoned my even temper, my willingness to extend grace to people who didn’t ask for it and maybe don’t even want it, my ability to appreciate the ridiculous in others and myself, but I’d forgotten how to give a soft answer. To deflect, to de-escalate, to subscribe to the spirit of let’s live to disagree another day. I didn’t turn away wrath with this friend and many others. I didn’t extinguish the fire. Instead, I threw some fatwood on it, stacked on fire-starter squares, then soaked it all in gasoline, and lit it with a blowtorch. Then I did a war-dance around the bonfire that I helped stoke.
“Why? Well, it’s fun to be right. It’s fun to pound facts and logic and reason and rhetoric, like masonry nails, into your combatant/friend’s cement head. It’s great fun to feel righteous, which beats all the-feeling-dead-inside that is the stuff of humdrum existence. Yet beware of the man who is too convinced of his own righteousness. That’s where the trouble usually starts.”
Anger Fever is not an infection that crept out of a lab in Oberlin, Ohio a few years back. It’s been around for centuries. It was an issue in ancient Ephesus, prompting the Apostle Paul to write “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear… Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:26–32).
A soft answer. Speech that is seasoned with grace. A commitment to one another that is strong enough to bear the weight of disagreements on secondary things because we have something deeper, more significant and more important that binds us together. That’s what the Bible calls us to. That’s how people who have embraced the gospel respond to each other.
The anger pandemic has hit close to home for Matt. “My father” he writes – respectable military officer, pillar of his church, apple of his grandchildren’s eye, a half-interested, not terribly-fanatic conservative most of his life – had now been seized by The Fever.”
But while Matt may have lost long time friends to Anger Fever, he writes “I’m pleased to report I didn’t lose my dad, who is still a better man than I am, no matter how wrong I think he is… We argue politics, sometimes loudly… I get on his nerves, and he gets on mine. But that’s what family’s for – irritating each other. It builds character, and as Heraclitus said, character is destiny.
“One thing that both me and my father understand, however, while much of the rest of the country has ceased to, is that even when we’re on different sides, we’re still on each other’s. No matter what. We are still family, and despite sometimes less-than-polite disagreements, we’re going to stay that way. Even after he reads this, all will (mostly) be fine, with the requisite ten or twenty mild objections. Yet I will happily see him this Sunday for dinner.”
So, back to where we began. How much disagreement and difference can you take in a relationship before you call it quits? I hope that the Great Physician can bring down our temperatures and cure us of Anger Fever.
We’re going to disagree. There will be times when we will look at one another and think “how can he be such a lunkhead?”
But even in our disagreements, God calls us unity in Him. To grace. To love. As it turns out, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together. Might as well get used to having each other’s back, even when we don’t see eye to eye.
RCCKIDS Connect – WEEK 3
Once again, tomorrow night (Thursday) is week 3 of our October KIDSConnect. And it’s not too late for your kids to join in the fun. Here again are the details.
grandparenting summit | Oct 21-22
|Remember to pray for the grandparents who will be gathering Thursday and Friday for the national Grandparenting Summit simulcast. And if for some reason you’re unable to attend but you’d like to have access to the video content, it will be available online for 30 days for anyone who is registered for the event. If you’re interested, register in the next 24 hours. Use the discount code REDEEMERLGS21, and your registration fee drops from $59 per person to $35 per person (after Friday, the cost to access the video content online jumps to $79). Log on and sign up now.|
trunk OR treat – oct. 29
Did you know that, according to candystore.com (yes, that’s a real website), the top ten favorite Halloween candies are as follows:
10. Candy Corn
9. Tootsie Pops
7. Hershey’s Kisses
6. Sour Patch Kids
5. Hot Tamales
And the #1 most favorite Halloween candy? Do you know without Googling it?
What about in Arkansas? Again, the good folks at candystore.com report that the children in our state have a preference for a particular candy that didn’t crack the Top 10 nationally. Any guesses?
While you ponder those questions, remember to grab a couple of bags of whatever candy you prefer and drop it off in the lobby at church this Sunday to help us get ready for our Trunk or Treat event on Friday night, October 29.
We will be looking for you and your tricksters that evening for fun and games. And if you’re looking for a fun way to spend a Friday evening in late October, contact Jen Gurney and let her know that you (and your trunk) are available to help out!
|There is a clear warning for all of us about being spiritually over confident. The Bible tells us “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” The Apostle Peter could have benefitted from that warning on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. We’ll explore the danger of spiritual overconfidence as we return to John 13 on Sunday.|
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!
PS. You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you? Nationally, the #1 most popular Halloween candy is Reese’s Cups (Reece’s Pieces didn’t even make the list!). And in Arkansas? The surprising #1 choice in our state is …
wait for it…
Jolly Ranchers! (Never would have guessed that one!).