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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Bob, I agree that, in the last several years, our nation seems to more divided than I remember in my lifetime. Instead of thinking of ourselves as Americans, we have settled into tribes of sorts with all kinds of different monikers. I agree with your suggestions of how we may conduct our conversations with others. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving.
I believe a lot of the behavior you address in this article has been fueled by social media. It is way too easy to disagree with, insult and argue with anyone through Facebook, Twitter, etc., because (unless you’re a celebrity) you can hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Your target cannot reach across the table and punch you in the nose when you call his mother names. You can verbally vomit all over anyone you choose and then block them before they have time to retaliate. Where is the motivation to cultivate within ourselves characteristics such as patience, humility, kindness and open-mindedness when we are not held accountable for our words? As Christians, our motivation is (or should be) to become more like Christ, bearing the fruits of the Spirit.
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I was just having this discussion with friends and family. Civil discourse needs a reawakening, and I hope we, as believers in Christ, are at the forefront.
As always, great insight. Thanks, Bob!
My, perhaps oversimplification of the underlying root of our cultures demise, is this. We have destroyed the peace God has given us, by doing the things he has not given us.
Bob, You are correct. We are losing the ability to have a civilized conversation about our differences, whether it be politics or vaccines or various other personal matters. No matter what side you are on, I have never seen someone change their mind from a Facebook post or anything posted online. On the occasion that I find myself being in one of those types of conversations I make it a point to remain calm and speak in a quiet manner. Then as you suggested try to agree to disagree. It is in these types of situations that we can surely be a light for God.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Gil
P.S. Thank you for addressing such a sensitive subject.