There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Disagree

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When I was a “suit” working on Wall Street back in the 80’s, and you said I should be a Salesman working strictly on commission, I would have told you that you were NUTS!! Yet, as the old saying goes: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans; my plans were turned around and by 1992 I was working as a commission-only salesman, doing the hardest of all types of sales- in the home from a telemarketing lead. And God helped me by placing good trainers in my path so that after about 2 years in that field I was one of the top two salesmen in the country selling siding, windows, and kitchen refacing.

You may wonder what this has to do with the title of today’s message, and I’ll be happy to tell you how:

Nowhere, in all of my experience throughout three different career paths, did I learn as much about human nature and how to get my ideas across successfully to others then when I learned how to sell.

Selling is the “Poor Man’s” career in Psychology. It isn’t so much manipulation of people as it is getting them to reject their own pre-conceived ideas and actually listen and absorb what you are saying to them. They still get to make up their own minds, but a good salesman will do three things:

  1. Make them realize that what they think they want is not what they need;
  2. Show them that what he has is really what they need;
  3. Allow them to come to their own conclusion that what he has is not just what they need, but what they want.

People don’t buy what they need but they do buy what they want, and when we take this from the commercial applications to the spiritual, we need to be able to “sell” the idea that what they need and want is Messiah and obedience to God which must come about through proper interpretation of God’s Word. .

Now we get into the real meat of today’s message- how do we get past that first step in which we are disagreeing with their pre-conceived ideas without making them kick us out the door? I can tell you this, absolutely…it isn’t by slapping them in the face with the truth.

I am a member of half a dozen different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups, and too often I run into people with ideas totally opposite to my understanding. And no matter what their ideas are, or mine (for that matter), if we cannot discuss or argue in a respectful and proper manner, then we achieve nothing. 

The proper way to disagree with someone is not to tell them they are wrong, and never, never, NEVER attack them on a personal level.  You can’t win someone over by insulting them (remember that old saw about how you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?) I am not saying you should agree with them or say something like “You might be right” if you really believe they are wrong, but disagree with them and do it with respect for their right to choose what they want to believe.

God has given each of us Free Will to choose, and when people tell me (as I often have to deal with) that I am wrong and I have to change, they are (in my opinion) abrogating my God-given right to choose.

NOTE: did you catch that style of disagreeing? Starting off with “in my opinion”, or “for me”, or even “what I have been taught…” is a way to disagree and get your opinion out there which will allow them to listen without feeling the need to defend themselves. Thats’ becasue the focus is on you, not them.

I will try to respectfully disagree with people without attacking them, although I might attack what they have been taught. When I do this I make sure that first I have a biblical reference to justify my position. I state how proper biblical interpretation must account for historical and linguistic context, hermeneutics, etc. in justifying my position, but I will not come right out and tell them they are wrong.

Having said that, there are times when I will be very straightforward and say they are wrong, but not in a way that blames them for being wrong. I will say that what they have been taught is wrong- attacking what they have been told without attacking them. I will say that they have been taught is a form of traditional doctrine, that what they have been told is not in compliance with the Bible (showing them the Bible reference), or some other means of demonstrating that what they are saying is not accurate but not saying that THEY are inaccurate.

At some point, usually after two or three back-and-forth discussions, if I can see that they are not ever going to even consider what I am saying, I ask them if we can just agree to disagree and let God judge between us. If the other side is spiritually and emotionally mature, we will end friends. But, unfortunately, too many times pridefulness overrules spirituality and the other side just can’t let it go. They will continue to post their side, and from the frustration that comes from my not bending to their will, they stop talking about the Bible and begin to attack me, personally. They call me spiritually empty, unknowing, ignorant, demonically possessed (yes, there have been people who have accused me of that), and any number of nasty, virile attacks against me. That is why God invented BLOCKING on Facebook.

When the discussion turns from your ideas and beliefs being argued to you being insulted and berated, it is time to shake the dust off your sandals and move on. Let them have the last word, you be the humble one and accept that you can’t make someone change their mind if they don’t want to.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

People are the same way. And remember: there is very little good soil out there to begin with, and we are just here to sow the seeds.

After having read this, if you disagree with me about any part of it, that’s OK- you have a right to! And if you agree with me, that’s much better, but the hard thing is not to just understand what I am saying but to actually use it in real life. When people are so passionate about what they believe that they can’t stand the thought of someone else not agreeing with them, the situation can become very tense and hurtful before you even know it is happening. Practice makes perfect, as with any skill, and if you find that your arguments keep falling on deaf ears, first I would suggest you verify that you are correct. Review your position with an open-minded approach and, if after doing so, you still believe your original position is the correct one but no one is listening to you, consider that you might need to change your method of argumentation.

No matter how “right” we may think we are, if we can’t get people to listen to us we might as well say nothing.


Stuff happens

One of my coworkers has to deal with his wife passing away, suddenly. They are barely 40, and he has two young, low-functioning autistic children.

When such tsouris happens, we have to think about why. Is this a judgment from God? Is it an attack from the enemy? Is it just plain lousy luck?

I choose to believe that it is all of those things. God judged Adam and Eve, so yes- living in a fallen and cursed world where stuff happens is a judgment from God. And since the enemy attacks those who do God’s work on the earth, yes- it may have been that (although neither of them are Believers.) And does it just happen to people because these things just happen to people? Yes, of course.

Stuff happens.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean He does control everything. He is not a micro-manager.  We live in a fallen and cursed world, and we sin. Many times, I would like to think most of the times, we sin because of our nature and not because we want to. I have said this many times:

I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. Bottom line: I am still a sinner.

But that’s not everyone, and where sin is concerned, I believe there is always, always, always…collateral damage. The sinner isn’t the only one who suffers. In this physical plane of existence, we all suffer the sins of those around us.

Jews suffered the sins of Hitler (along with a lot of other religions); Jim Jones was a mass murderer, and the masses he killed (his own followers) suffered because of his sin; thousands suffered from the sins of the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. I could go on and on and on- just read the newspaper. Every single day, hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are innocent suffer because of the sins of others.

If you walk through a cow field, don’t expect to reach the other side with clean shoes. No matter how carefully you watch your step, you will step into something, sooner or later. And probably more than once.

That’s how life is in a cursed and fallen world. It sucks to be here, but there’s no where else to go right now. Of course, we could be with the Lord, but if you want to serve the Lord you can’t really do it when you are with Him- His work isn’t finished here on the earth so we who serve Him must remain here. That was the problem Shaul had (Philippians 1:21), and it’s the same one we all have, too- we want to be with the Lord but the Lord needs us serving Him here.

The good news is this: we who are Believers will be with the Lord, and when we are it will be for all eternity. The lousy lot we are stuck with here on earth is temporary. Yakov (James) says it is like a mist; this life that we suffer through. It seems to take forever, but it will be such a short memory throughout eternity we will barely even notice it. It will be as nothing once we are with the Lord, so suffer through it and be patient. As Shaul advises: keep your eyes on the prize.

Be compassionate, be loving, expect to have problems. You will. But don’ let them get you down. There will be people who harm you, physically and emotionally. Don’t let them hurt your spirit.

There will be people who hurt themselves, people you care about, and it will make you suffer to see them hurting themselves. Try to help them by showing them how much you care, and by treating them with understanding, but still maintaining a firm resolution to let them know that what they are doing to themselves is unacceptable, and that it hurts you. Ultimately, it is their choice to change or remain as they are, just as it is our choice to suffer with them or leave them to their own devices. Even Shaul, who said without love he is nothing, gave up on some people at times and had nothing further to do with them.

We all make choices, whether we want to or not; for instance, abstaining is not making a decision one way or the other, but it is, in and of itself, a decision. We always have a choice, and we always make a choice.

And we will be accountable for the choices we make. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Get with the program.

I feel for my co-worker, I can’t begin to understand the stresses he is feeling. I am glad we work for a compassionate and family-oriented company who will work with him during this devastating time in his life. I also wonder how I will deal with the loss of Donna, if she should go first. I don’t think anyone who knows of someone suffering the loss of a loved one doesn’t immediately reflect on their losses, too. Life and death are natural to us; in fact, it’s to be expected, and even though we all know everyone will die sooner or later (hopefully later), it still feels like a punch in the stomach when it happens to someone we care about.

The worst thing there is, to me, is losing a loved one who has refused to accept Messiah Yeshua- that is the real loss. It’s bad enough losing the person’s company, but to know what that person is going to have to deal with when the Acharit haYamim (End Days) are done and the final judgment comes to us all, well- that is the most painful part of all.

The best thing to remember when someone close to you suffers a loss is that you need to let them know you are there for them, especially since everyone else is probably shoving their own losses down the poor persons throat. That’s what we do: we share our grief with people who are grieving, in the hope that we make them feel less alone. Trust me- they don’t feel as alone in their grief anywhere near as much as they feel like telling you to shut up!

Pray for people who are suffering, hold their hand, comfort them with silence, and when you talk with them tell them how much you loved and will also miss the one they lost. Honor the life of the lost person, and don’t share your losses. This person has enough loss- they don’t need yours, too. Talk with them normally because what they need is normality.

The loss of a loved one is hard, it is different, and it tears you out of reality. We need to comfort people suffering a loss by bringing reality back, just enough to make them feel comfortable, just by being a friend who is there.

Stuff happens; however, knowing that doesn’t make it feel any better when it does. All I can say is thank God I have God to help me though it.


Under Attack: Good Thing or Bad Thing?

Are you under attack? Do you think the Enemy is trying to get you to do things that will separate you from God?

If so, that is actually a good thing, isn’t it? I mean, if you are getting so close to God that the Enemy sees that as a threat to him, then the attack means you are doing something right. Doesn’t it?

That may not help make things feel better, because an attack is, well, an attack. It’s never fun. But it does mean  you are on the right track.

I don’t feel like I’ve ever been attacked. Really. I often review myself and think, “Why am I so blessed? Why aren’t I going through real Tsouris?”  And the only answer I can come up with is that I am not getting any closer to God today than I was yesterday.

That’s not a good thing- that’s a bad thing. I am not growing, spiritually.

Maybe I am being blessed; so much so, in fact, that I am under the kippur (covering) of the Lord so that the Enemy can’t get to me. That sounds wonderful, but I really can’t see myself there. I just don’t! I still have wrongful thoughts, I look at pretty women just a little longer than I should (not that I lust with my eyes, I just, oh, let them linger there for an extra second or so), when I get frustrated I still spew forth a stream of expletives that can make the sailors blush (once a Marine, always a Marine- in both spirit and language), and I…well, let’s just say there are a few more items on the list. I like to joke that I don’t want to be perfect because of what happened to the last perfect Jewish boy. In truth, I can’t be perfect, and I would like to be closer to God than I am now. Even at the risk of coming under attack.

I guess I have to try harder. I have to work more at taking up my execution stake and following Yeshua more closely. I need to die more to self, to empty the sin from my soul so that there is more room for the Ruach HaKodesh to fill the space that is left there with His righteousness.

I know this sounds really stupid, but I kinda wish that I was under attack more. I would feel that I am doing something right. But let me also state that NOT being under attack is the preferred way to go through life, and being protected by God is better than anything there is.

So, Lord…if you’re reading this, and you are spreading your wings over me like a mother hen spreads her wings over her chicks, please don’t think I am ungrateful or that I don’t want to be here. What I want is to please you, to do what is right in your eyes. I want what David asked for: that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to thee, always.

If you are under attack, look to the Ruach for support and help, and recognize that the attack is not just because the Enemy has nothing else to do- it is because you are doing something worthy of attack. You are getting closer to God, and that is a good thing. Suffer through, for perseverance can build your faith and strengthen your spirit; that’s what Jimmy said, and he is right.

Of course, you may also be under the rod of God. Don’t forget we gain strength and comfort from His rod and His staff; the staff to gently lead us, and the rod when we refuse to listen. Being under attack may not always be the Enemy trying to separate you from God. It may be God trying to get you back on the right path. Either way, if you feel under attack take a really close look at yourself: if you know you are doing what God wants, it’s the Enemy, so stay the course. If you truthfully know you have wandered off the true way, it’s God wanting to direct you back, so get on track.

I don’t really want to be under attack, and I am happy and grateful if I can avoid it. Maybe God is protecting me, maybe the Enemy is waiting for a more opportune time. Remember Cain? God told him that sin is crouching at his door, as it is for all of us. Maybe the real attack is yet to come? Whatever. I am ready, and I think the best defence is a strong offence- believe me, no one is more offensive than me- so I will keep trying. I will continue to work to get closer to God, and to do what is right in His eyes.

Being under attack could be a good thing, it could be a good sign, but not being under attack is even better. I pray that no one reading this is under attack, and if so, won’t be for much longer. There is always hope in the Lord, and that is what the Enemy wants to take away from you. He cannot, nor can anyone, take away the promise of salvation, but we can throw it away, so when you are under attack hold tight to the Lord and His promises. That is your anchor.

Fight back, stay the course, win the ultimate laurel wreath. Attacks are bad things that represent a good thing- keep in mind the good thing is that you are getting closer to God and when you come through the fire you will be more refined, like much fine gold. The purer the gold, the less it tarnishes.