When our pastor announced his new series on being a peacemaking church I thought “Hmm. OK. Should be interesting.” When I saw that the topic for today’s sermon was “The Source of Conflict” I thought, “Well, I suppose it will be nice for some people to hear that, but really I’m such a peaceful, gentle person that I have no conflicts.”
I think God put his hands on his hips, cocked his head and said “OH, REALLY? WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO START NAMING A FEW?” Sometimes God has to talk in capital letters to get my attention.
After he got my attention, he proceeded to remind me that I am an incredibly stubborn human being. He reminded me of all the times that I bristle inwardly if I feel I’ve even remotely been insulted. This happens a lot for me, because as a sort of crunchy green conservative I bristle if someone insults the Republicans AND I bristle if someone insults the Democrats. As a member of an historic peace church I bristle if someone insults those who believe in peaceful solutions, and as someone whose brother is in the military I bristle if someone insults the military. I bristle, I roll my eyes and heave heavy internal sighs of exasperation. And conflict eats away at my heart, even if it never spills over to the other person.
So this is what God has been asking me today. “What if I gave you the freedom to be wrong? What if you gave others the freedom to be wrong?” What would that mean? What would life look like?
If I had the freedom to be wrong I would no longer feel it necessary to stay up late arguing my point with people on the internet that I have never even met. I wouldn’t have to keep logging in to message boards just to see if their arguments had fallen apart, if there was any thread of illogic that I could pull on to watch their viewpoint crumble. If I had the freedom to be wrong I would no longer waste energy fretting over not being able to prove that I am right.
If I gave others the freedom to be wrong the insults would lose their power. I wouldn’t waste time waiting for the moment when I could say “AHA!” If I gave others the freedom to be wrong I would spend more time listening to their hearts instead of their words. If I gave them the freedom to be wrong I could say “You know, that hurt me” and then move on, because it’s more about our relationship and less about our points of view.
I’m still trying to envision a world in which I can give myself and others the freedom to be wrong. I’m trying to envision a world in which my inside feels as gentle as my outside projects. I’m trying to envision a world in which I just let my grudges go, right or wrong, warranted or not.
I don’t know how I’ll get there, but I’d like to get there eventually. One step that I’m taking is cutting off my time on message boards during Lent. Even when I keep silent, that slow internal boil that sometimes is created in me is a source of potential conflict. I’ll still be blogging and checking all the blogs I read because I’ve steered clear of those that take an insulting tone or where conflict seems to brew. But I’m curious to see where this journey takes me when I’m able to just walk away and not worry about who is right and who is wrong.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. James 4: 1,2 (NIV)