When I was little my sister and I fought all of the time. One of us would eventually run and complain to mom. Her standard response was “Don’t tell me what she did. Tell me what you did. Tell me what you could have done better.”
It’s a good step—wise, although not very therapeutic. The part I’ve learned to supplement with is called reflecting feeling. It’s the part that comes before correction. You feel really upset that your sister didn’t ask to borrow your toy and now it got broken. I’m so sorry that happened. It’s unjust and you feel angry…
As my super smart counselor friend has taught me, this practice builds connection. The individual with the hurt (big or small) feels seen and heard. And especially when you’re talking to littles it’s a crucial step in teaching them to express their emotions in hopes that they’ll grow up to be healthy, emoting adults. After the feelings are reflected, it opens us up to receive comfort because we know the person sees us and is with us in that moment. As someone who loves Jesus, I will talk about how he feels for me.
“Jesus knows how you feel right now. He loves you so much and cares deeply that you are hurting. What do you think he’s telling you?”
“He feels sad that I feel sad. He’s hurting that I’m hurting.”
“What do you think he’s asking you to do right now?”
“I think he wants me to forgive my sister. Because it was an accident and I know she didn’t mean to.” (Just pretend that my six year old self was this rational.) And here we’ve come full circle—the desired result in a family is unity. And I’ve been brought back around, while still having my emotional needs met. My needs mattered. I was seen and heard. And then I was able to let them go because I do desire to love my sister.
I saw a twitter exchange a few days ago and it made me deeply sad. An individual declared something on twitter that he probably shouldn’t have—but it was a conviction of his and he felt the need to share it. I don’t agree with him. I think 140 characters is a sham way to share a conviction because people miss all the nuances and shading that went into said conviction. But what horrified me was the way others began to mock him and throw stones. It was not “all in good fun” as they proceeded to run him to the ground and scrape his skin off. Memes were made. It was an undignified response to a comment that should have been left to rot.
Because here’s the deal—I believe that all parties involved love Jesus. I think we are all working out our salvation with fear and trembling and while there are some pretty sharp disagreements, I don’t think we have to stoop to the level of toddlers flinging mud. I have a problem with humor at the expense of someone else. We have to see the human dignity in each other—it’s all we have left in this cold, harsh world. I hate that people tweet asinine things with what seems a divisive heart to draw a line in the sand—reminding the world there’s an “us” and a “them.” But we are all made in the image of God and we can’t forget that.
These tweets happen. And I think it’s fair that they anger and hurt us, or hurt those we care about. And I think it’s fair to respond—but not in a mocking or patronizing way. We need to expand the dialogue—not join him/her in the mud. We’re trying to erase the line—not draw it deeper in the sand.
I think unity comes when we reflect feeling. When we say, “these words hurt,” and we sit in that hurt. Because we will hurt one another—it’s a harsh reality in this almost but not yet world. And we can ask Jesus how he feels about that hurt. Then we can lean deeply into the Holy Spirit and ask how we should respond in a way that “preserves the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Sometimes that does look like making a mess and knocking over tables. Sometimes it might look like speaking up for the marginalized, offering a different lens from which to view the gospel. Sometimes we’ll need to pick up a sword to attack the lie. But I think the further we can stay away from mocking one another, the more love we show one another even in our disagreements, the more the world will see Jesus’s fingerprints all over us. We won’t ever be “disagreement” free, but maybe we can be conflict free…maybe we can be gracious and loving towards one another, even when we don’t deserve it. Maybe the hope of the world isn’t that we all agree all of the time, but that there’s room for all of us with all of our different shapes, stories, and experiences to sit together and break bread at the table.
Maybe we can nod our heads to the God we see in each other instead of slaughtering each other.