Sometimes, it’s just a matter of perspective. Other times, it pays to say, “wait just a darn minute”. But what are the real questions we should be asking before we wade out into the abyss of argument, bickering and contention?
We live in a day that brother has turned against brother and parents are estranged from children. It’s a time of division and separation, as predicted in Matthew 10 and 2 Timothy 3. Indeed, there is a shaking underway, but we are often led to a watering hole that turns out to be sand.
Have you ever been in an argument or debate that turned into a mocking and demeaning verbal brawl? Have you ever been in a conversation and realized, ah oh, “this isn’t going well”, and just held your tongue and retreated?
Have you ever been involved in one of those conversations that started amiably and, then, wonder: What the heck just happened here?
Like the example from Alex Morton, who is the real enemy here? The jar is shaken, and the real enemy just sits back and enjoys the resulting fray.
Unfortunately, the media, pundits, political leaders, and others with an agenda shake the jar and stir the pot to incite bitterness, envy, hatred, animosity, and acrimony. Often, though, the aim is not to incite a victory on an issue but simply to distract, divide and conquer.
Here are some questions you may want to ask about people who shake the jar:
What is their goal? Self-promotion and attention are often the goals. If an inciter can seem above the fray and neutral as two others rustle around the mud, they appear clean and merely arbiters as they offer opinion and conclusions.
What is their real motive? One of the motives is the distraction that takes the focus off of them and their actions. One of the key elements of the Russian interference in elections, for example, is to get people fighting and arguing — basically turning one American against another — to distract from other actions by the country.
What is the real need here? More often than not, there is a fear, insecurity, lack of purpose or need for attention driving the person shaking the jar. Think about a pot-stirrer in your life, whether a public person or someone at the office. Don’t excuse the action, but before judging them, consider what the need is. If you peel back the onion a bit, you’ll find the real void and better understand the person.
Wait, what are we arguing about anyway? Seriously, these fights are often on the fringe and designed to elicit fear, anxiety, angst and raise tension and mistrust.
What can you do? What should you do?
- Don’t march to someone else’s drumbeat. Dance to your music and follow your own drumbeat.
- Stay focused on your priorities. Distraction will leave you confused, disheartened and discouraged.
- Take a deep breath. It’ll slow your heart rate and lower the pressure to respond or engage.
- Bite your tongue. Give your heart and head a minute to catch up with your mouth.
- Don’t take the bait because that’s all it is.
- Instead of jumping in, ask yourself the questions above.
- Remove the source. Remember: You are the average of the five people (or things) you surround yourself with.
Often, things just don’t seem right, so that should be your first clue. People who have been long-time friends or fires started with meaningless drivel from out in left field should be another clue.
What’s more important? Winning a meaningless or inconsequential fight and burning a bridge, or hanging onto a life-long friend who can have your back in the next battle?
You can choose to be the fuel for the fire or the firewall. Which path will you take?