We have just completed an election cycle that was unusually acrimonious and brutal. The State of Alabama went for Romney, the majority of the country apparently did not. There are statistical impossibilities being reported in polls, in more than one state that claim a 100% vote in several districts in favor of President Obama. The cry of foul play is shrill from both sides, and the wisest amongst the losers seem to indicate that there is the need for a huge overhaul in the S.O.P. of conservatism, from top to bottom.
I was chatting the other day in LuVici’s with the wife of a former Alabama State representative about the difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable, and how, in days gone by, there was lively discussion between opposing viewpoints that on some level made sense, and most times was civil. Now, if you disagree with presidential policy, you are told that your reasons for doing so are firmly rooted in racism, and if you are successful financially, you are only motivated by greed, other people deserve the fruit of your labors, and “you didn’t build that on your own.”
From whence cometh this madness? I think it can be found in the trap of offense. It is not that when people do, say, think or act in ways that most cultures feel is offensive and ill advised, that you slap on a smile and pretend that their stuff don’t stink. Rather, it’s that you don’t buy into the offense, judgment and resulting bitterness that is poison to body, soul and spirit. You learn to disagree without becoming consummately disagreeable.
How do you do that? Well, speaking for self, and having had a number of opportunities in my lifetime to be offended by behavior that is incontrovertibly crazy making, I find that I have to continually remind myself that if I do not have love, (in the paraphrased words of Paul,) I am nothin’ but noisy, if I have not love, I am nothin’ but nothin,’ and if I sacrifice everything, but do so out of a motive that is not rooted and grounded in love, at the end of the day, I gain nothing.
Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I am tempted to start in with my presentation to the Almighty as to why I am right and “they” are wrong. Sometimes I indulge myself for awhile, and then I get to the most honest prayer in existence on the planet, and that is, “Help.” Sometimes I nobly add, “Look, You see the big picture, I know this is above my pay grade, and I am really in trouble, here, so could you help the girl out?”
What I find is that when push comes to shove, my very spiritual survival and sanity depend on how quickly I move from my inner rant, to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If I don’t forgive, I don’t get forgiven, and I get delivered over to a bevy of tormentors, who don’t play nice.
So, what’s next, for our lives, our town, our state, and our country? Depending on how well we wage the inner war against being offended, and choose to allow ourselves to forge ahead, being set on fire with His love, it will either be, as Charles Dickens put so well over a hundred years ago, “the best of times,” or, “the worst of times,” and not much in between. It’s our choice, and may we allow God to help us make the only one that makes a lick of sense. By: Ali Elizabeth Turner