I can’t say with certainty when it started, but the last several years have marked an increased angry, arguing, and divided people in our nation. A lot of it, of course, goes back to Donald Trump and his presidency. However, since taking office the current administration has also led to a great deal of division, controversy, and anger among the American people.  

The anger, controversy, and division is wide and with many people also deep. Family members, longtime friends, fellow workers, and committed Christians too often engage with one another with a lack of mutual respect and an unwillingness to listen to those with whom they disagree. Name calling, abusive language, and insults doesn’t contribute anything to thoughtful discussion.

A factor that adds fuel to the fire so to speak is that some people think and act like they know more than anyone else does. Arrogance usually doesn’t make someone easier to listen to or agree with. Nor is it something that is attractive to others.

The absence of humility and common courtesy in some of our discussions, along with excessive and exaggerated claims and criticism, do not contribute to thoughtful and respectful exchanges in our conversations about things that divide us, lead to anger, or result in intense arguing.

Unfortunately, some people feel they are being rejected when someone does not agree with their position. Just because we do not agree with someone does not mean we think less of them.  

As I have watched others (mostly on TV) debate and argue about so much I have usually ended up unsettled and discouraged.  I have also been challenged to think about how I should discuss things and engage with family, friends, and others.

Here are some results of my thinking you may find helpful:

Don’t take the bait. Some people are fired up and intense when they discuss controversial things–what they want is to argue. I try not to take the bait.

Refrain from becoming angry–anger rarely is helpful and often is unhelpful.

Be respectful–listen to what is being said without interrupting.

Don’t be overly aggressive trying to change someone’s mind–many people have their own opinion and we should refrain from demeaning them.

Be gracious–if possible, agree to disagree.

None of us on our own can do away with controversy, division, different opinions, or anger. Being unsettled and discouraged by some of it is probably natural. What we can do is manage ourselves and how we conduct ourselves when we disagree.

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Throughout our lives most of us find ourselves in a variety of undertakings in which we want to make progress. Many do so in terms of their education, their job and career, a hobby, community activities, volunteering, and many other possibilities.

For the past 58 years or so I’ve been on and off giving attention to making progress as a Christian. I’ve often made progress, sometimes I’ve been stalled, and unfortunately there have been times when I lost ground.

The Bible clearly teaches, challenges, and expects us to make progress in our Christian lives. One of the clearest of calls to make progress in in II Peter 1:5-7, “. . . make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”  

What sparked my thinking about this matter was a couple of pieces in an issue of The Christian Century (9/22/21) by biblical scholar Jesper Svartvik. Here’s the first of his observations that rang my bell so to speak, “The purpose of the word of God is not to make us feel condemnable, but to help us see what is commendable and what is not.” In our Bible reading we are going to read about what is condemnable, but we need to also give much attention to what the Bible tells us is commendable. As we do what is commendable my sense is we will do less of what is condemnable as we make progress.

I found a second observation of Svartvik to be comforting, encouraging, and assuring: “Christians who look on themselves as pilgrims are reminded that they have not yet reached their destination, that they are still on their way, and that they do not have all the answers.”

For several years I’ve included an observation of my own in my teaching that echoes the first of Svartvik’s threefold observation, “The Christian life is a dynamic life in which no one can ever say in this life, I have arrived.” No, we have not yet reached our destination, but hopefully we are still on our way making progress.

In this post I am not trying scold anyone who is in a holding pattern in terms of progress in the Christian life. Progress is our challenge and expectation, but it is not automatic and it is helpful if we are both aware and intentional.

Making progress in living the Christian life does not earn or merit God’s love and grace. We are saved by God’s grace and love because Jesus died on the cross. As an expression of our faith we keep in mind that we are pilgrims and keep on keeping on in our journey.

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Hopefully no one reading this post will be surprised by my confession that “I’m not always right.” Adding to the title of this post, however, it is also true that you (readers) are not always right either. The reality is that no one is always right.

Realizing that we are not always right is an important reality we need to grasp and admit (perhaps especially to ourselves). All of us I would think have been around some who think and act as though they are always right. A person who thinks he/she is always right is not attractive or someone whose company we enjoy.

Everyone, of course, is welcome to their opinion and position. But to insist that their position or opinion is always right is unbecoming to those who do not agree nor hold their position.

Have you ever wondered why some people insist they are always right? I’m thinking they may have an issue with pride and therefore an unwillingness to admit they are wrong. Some people find it demeaning to admit they are or were wrong about something–it’s hard for them not to be right.

Wanting or thinking you’re always right can lead to disagreement and argument. I usually can accept disagreement, but too often am disappointed that disagreement grows into intense argument.    

A lot of disagreements about who is right not only leads to argument, but can result in ill will between those arguing as well as a melting of mutual respect. When the back and forth moves to belittling and anger it’s time to conclude the disagreement and the argument and move on.

Don’t you get tired of being around those who always insist they are right? Why do some of us think we always have to be right? Another outgrowth of thinking one is always right is the loss of listening to what others are saying. We don’t have to agree, but we should listen even when we don’t agree.

As a person matures they usually come to the realization that they don’t have to always be right. My experience is that as I have come to accept that I am not always right I am less intense, more fun, and less often hotly arguing about things that are not that important.

I’m not always right, and I have learned that it is healthy to admit that to myself as well as to those with whom I have meaningful conversations. I am not humiliated to say those magic words: “I was wrong.” I say them to God, to my family and friends, and to others I hope will accept my honesty.

Have you come to realize you are not always right? And have you learned to say “I was wrong”?

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