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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Everything Isn't Terrible! : Part 4

 How do you define yourself? More specifically, how do you define yourself in the context of your relationships? With your partner? In your family? At work? In church?



Here’s something to think about: sometimes we find ourselves mixing up our thoughts and our feelings and sometimes we mix them up with other people’s thoughts and feelings as well.


 What? I remember speaking with a member of my other church. It was nearing a previous election, and she was agitated because the messages she was receiving from me, from other church members, from the media, from her friends, and from family were all different. As she described her struggles to navigate, she threw up her hands and said, “I just don’t know what to believe.”


Part of her frustration was that she was fearful of the response of those who might disagree. For her, this was a big problem because the people in her various groups have very different world views and had very different opinions on that election. In some ways she was expressing agreement with the last person she spoke with, while being fearful of the possible reaction from the next person. We could say that her beliefs and her feelings were all mixed up. She was not able to own any of her own beliefs, or to identify any.


We can define our own beliefs. In doing so we can also expect that others might react.


According to Dr. Smith, we have all sorts of reactions within ourselves when we don’t fully know what we believe. We also experience reactions from others when we express ourselves, especially if it is a new behavior. She offers a list and a chart that I think go well together.


“Underdeveloped beliefs lead to:

  • storming out of the room

  • conforming to the group

  • cutting off from people who disagree

  • arguing with people

  • trying to convince people

  • more anxiety!”


I love the little chart that Dr. Smith offers. The box labeled' People go, “WTF” ' is exhibited in the actions listed above.

 

What do we do when people react? See what comes next in the chart?

“Continue calmly holding your position.”


This is hard. We are affected by the actions or reactions of others. But we do not have to react back. We can stay calm while also staying in relationship. 


For me, my own first reaction was not to stay calm while holding my position, but rather to stay away, or to disengage, to even cut-off the relationship.


But I’ve learned over the years that these reactions don’t really get me anywhere. They certainly don’t work in a community such as a church. Ultimately the strength of a community is in the ability of people with different ideas engaging with one another while continuing to walk together.

It is hard work. It is worthy work.


Another member of my other church shared with me that he has a high school buddy who he has reconnected with (after about 40 years). This buddy started talking politics and his ideas were completely opposite. The church member told me that he said something along the lines of: “I am so glad that we have reconnected. I do not agree with what you are saying. I am actually opposed to these ideas. But I want us to have a relationship, so let’s talk about…”


For the church member, stating his beliefs was important and being in relationship was important. It required him to say no, while also offering an invitation. An approach worth considering!


If you’ve read this far, thank you!


And here’s an assignment from Dr. Smith. “Imagine that aliens have crash-landed in your backyard. In exchange for giving you the secret to light-speed travel, they ask that you share your five wisest thoughts on being a mature human.” What would you say?


I would love to hear you answers.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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