I have typed this word a lot lately…“sigh”… This in response to emails and text messages expressing frustration and fears over the mask mandate civil war. Clients and friends have reached to me out in exasperation, asking me how they should respond to their constituency or their kid’s friend’s mom or to Uncle Larry, those who have declared a mask mandate war. My response nearly always starts with…
… “sigh” …
Yet, here we are, still. Way back in 2020 I wrote about the mask wars (here and here) that I observed, firsthand, in my forays out into our COVID drenched world. The battle rages on, people are losing their minds, circling the wagons and drawing lines in the sand.
So, is there a good way or a better way or a sane way to respond to the fury? To disarm the situation and salvage the relationships?
Here is where I need to disclose that for 42 years I served as a pastor in local churches around the country. I still preach sometimes, when asked. I will be doing just that later in November at the church I formerly served. The church is doing a sermon series on preparing emotionally and spiritually for the holidays. I decided to take on the topic of facing the inevitable tough relationships and conversations ahead. Because, remember, you do have to go to Uncle Larry’s for his annual Christmas party.
Here’s a preview of the sermon I will be giving. Pretty simple, actually.
That’s it. That’s the sermon.
Rather, that’s the very short shorthand of my sermon which will center on these words from the New Testament book of Galatians:
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
The context surrounding those words includes an admonition to “love your neighbor” and stop “devouring” each other. The writer then suggests that a way to do that is to allow the fruit of God’s Spirit to take over our interactions and relationships. Here is what I intend to point out about that list of “fruit”.
With the exception of “love”, every other character trait requires no words! They are things you display, even when you are on the receiving end of a tirade, without ever opening your mouth.
Exhibit joy – with smiles, happiness and warmth
Show peace – through a calm and poised posture
Practice long-suffering – by staying in the room
Be kind – even with your facial expressions
Do good – by giving them the space to vent
Be faithful – by not shutting down the relationship
Act gently – with a soft presence
Show self-control – don’t yell or throw anything
In other words…shut up. Yes, you will want to strike back. Yes, you’ll want to run from the room pulling your hair out. Yes, you’ll feel the urge to share with them what you know, because if only they could understand then they would get it. Don’t do those things. Shut up. Smile and listen as you drink your wassail and allow your kind silence to do its thing.
Now I know I left out the biggest of the fruit – love. Of course, many times love means saying things, even painful things…but right now may I suggest that you, again, shut up, and instead DO loving things. Hug, compliment, encourage and bless.
It will take everything you have to do this. It will grate on you. It will feel like a grave injustice to “let them get away with their nonsense.” But, my friends, I see no other way forward. The wall grows higher by the day. The wounds of broken relationships get deeper. We are at a cultural and familial breaking point.
So let’s try something different.
Let’s shut up …and be kind.