What’s important enough?

Published 3:45 pm Saturday, September 8, 2018

by Charles Qualls

What I’m about to say won’t be uniformly popular. It’ll probably get me some mail. But, it’s time and someone needs to sound the alarm.

In an era where culture and politics have combined to create such divides, we’ve got to wake up and wonder at what price do we have all this conflict? Hang with me because at the end, I’ve got a question that you’ve pretty much got to answer.

First, let me explain where I’m coming from. Then, illustrate so that hopefully this all comes home to where you live or work.

I think having different opinions is all fine. Obviously, that’s been the case in civilizations since the beginning of time. I guess “civilization” is the key concept though. We’re not so civil these days.

It seems that folks can’t just disagree. Nowadays, we aren’t content simply discussing political and cultural issues. The current mood is that we’ve got to hurl insults when we can’t get on the same page.  Time was that folks could argue without being argumentative. They could disagree and not be so disagreeable.

What disturbs me is that we don’t appear to mind, lately, doing damage to our most important family and old friendships just for the sake of having our say. I hear it in conversations. I especially see this in social media conduct which offers the illusion of safety, distance and relative anonymity.

Trouble is, when you post (or say) that insensitive thing, your loved ones all know it was you who said it. When your post calls “liberals” or “conservatives” stupid, naive, uninformed, retarded or somehow useless — it just got personal for your real friends or family with that name-calling.

Here’s where we tend to make things even worse. Because to their offense or hurt, we’ll just say that “snowflake” ought to toughen up. We’ll say that these days everyone’s just too sensitive.

An old friend came to Franklin recently to visit. We sat in my home and caught up. We talked about life, family and loved ones. At some point, he shared a lot of pain he had with his own direct family members and a couple of his oldest friends. In today’s political climate, he said, visits and other interactions keep turning ugly. He keeps feeling attacked by those he’s closest to. He’s tempted to spend less time with them.

That’s a conversation I have more often than you might think. I’ve had it with more than one of my own family members. I have a relative who called me once, asking me to intervene on her behalf with my own branch of the family because a visit had turned hostile around political differences.

Insults were thrown. Insensitive things were said. She wasn’t sure how much she was motivated to keep seeing some of the very people she had loved for a lifetime.

At my last church, I had a couple of people leave their Sunday School class because a few just couldn’t filter their political wisecracks for the sake of the fellowship. I couldn’t blame the people who changed groups.

If your reaction to these real-life incidents is that people need to just toughen up, then you might be part of the problem.

“Hey Buttercup, too bad” is not really a suggestion you get to make. These people don’t have to spend time with you if you don’t care about them any more than that.

Based solely on the last presidential election, your social media attacks and ugly posts are statistically likely to bother 50 percent of the voting population around you. This includes some of your own family members and old friends. Is that worth it, just in the name of what we abusively refer to as “free speech?”

So here’s the question I ask my pre-maritals and married couples when I work with them.

What issue, subject or challenge is worth you fracturing a relationship over? If we stop to reflect a little, to really pay attention to how life and faith work best — then I would hope we would have a longer-term viewpoint and choose not to hurt people we love.

That voter you differ with? She’s not up in a different part of our state. That person you can’t understand? He’s not just under someone else’s roof. Her feet are under your dinner table. He’s sitting across the aisle from you in church. She’s your child or your parent. He’s your friend or co-worker.  Your speech may be “free,” but when you do damage to a relationship with your words I’ve got to ask you at what cost were you so right?

CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.