How Not to be a Jerk

A man asked to meet me this week at Starbucks. He was probably in his late 60s or early 70s, and he immediately impressed me by riding his bike to our little meeting.

He explained that after losing his wife of 40+ years in death, he had remarried. His new wife was a Christian like him, but one of their few differences was politics. He is a conservative, and she more progressive. But everything was going along just fine…

…until her candidate lost in the presidential election of 2016.

That was the beginning of their difficulties. But strangely enough, his wife didn’t have a problem with his politics at first. But it was a different story when her party was no longer in power.

Her anger simmered over the months and then boiled over during the inauguration and the women’s march on the next day. Now, she continually brings up how outrageous the new president is, knowing her husband had voted for him.

As he tells me this, he uses self-deprecating humor about him “not being the sharpest knife in the drawer”. He says he knows he’s no great catch when it comes to looks. In his humility, he never brings up politics with her, and certainly never badgered her about their differences.

Now he asks me something that truly amazed me.

“So, in a gesture of humility, I’m wondering if I should just try to change my political inclinations. I’m truly afraid if I don’t that our marriage is in jeopardy. Should I just try to stop believing what I think to be right?”

By the way, for all you women out there: if you ever find a man this humble, you’d better do anything you can to keep him. Because he’s one in a million.

This is where we are in the United States of 2017. We’ve become so self-assured, so arrogant, and so condescending to others, we can no longer tolerate those who disagree with us.

If we don’t get our way, we just yell louder, When someone disagrees, we call them names and try to impugn their character. When this all started on the cable news shows, it seemed just like good tv. But now it has seeped into our daily lives and relationships with others.

Political acrimony is now destroying friendships, families, and yes, even marriages. And it is not by accident. It is a strategy, but not from the democrats or republicans exclusively.

It’s a strategy straight from the pits of hell that works brilliantly: “divide and conquer”…

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand”. – Jesus (Matthew 12:25)

This is how Satan works to destroy the things he hates which are so precious to us: churches, marriages, families, and nations.

He manages to focus us on one issue, something we want. Then he convinces us we deserve that thing. Then he convinces us we cannot live without that thing.

Finally, he tells us gaining that one thing is worth sacrificing anything and anyone. So it’s time to go “scorched earth” on our opponent. It doesn’t matter what we say, what we do, how much it hurts, or even whether what we say is true or not.

All that matters is winning and getting our way.

Abraham Lincoln was faced with that attitude from the South during the Civil War. I realize the war was about more than just slavery, but slavery was integral to the South’s refusal and ultimate rebellion. In order to protect the nation’s unity, they would have had to change their way of life. Their standard of living would be lessened no doubt when they were no longer allowed to force slaves to work their lands.

Instead of prizing the unity of the country, they refused to see at what an evil price their comforts were bought. They demanded their way and when they didn’t get it, they chose a war that almost destroyed the nation instead of humble sacrifice for the good of those they had wronged.

We are never more like Satan than when we demand “our way”.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. – Isaiah 14:12-14

The ideology of revolution says “fight for your rights”. But the ideology of Jesus says “give up your rights”. The political parties of the husband and wife I’m referencing are irrelevant – they could have easily been reversed in the elections four years ago. The main difference was the husband was willing to sacrifice anything in order to save the marriage.

But the wife was willing to risk destroying her husband and her marriage by using  politics to beat her husband into submission.

Understand, I’m not saying you shouldn’t protest against what you feel is wrong. Absolutely, make your voice heard, speak truth to power, stand up for what you believe is right! But in doing so, realize people are not your enemy. Most of those on the other side are trying to fix the problems as well. They simply see a different solution than you do.

We are told repeatedly this election is different and demands extreme measures. But that’s just another argument Satan uses to divide people. If he can divide a husband and wife, even over a petty issue like politics, he knows he can soon destroy the marriage.

If he can just get you to pummel your Facebook friends with post after post demanding their submission, he can destroy the support systems we so greatly need.

And we need the support of friends more than we need our political solutions. But once Satan separates us from the rest of the flock, that’s when the wolf can pounce and devour the lone weak sheep without opposition.

I told my friend that while it was noble for him to offer to change his ideology, ultimately that would probably be impossible. But most of all, it was disrespectful for his wife to keep pressing the point. She knew what she was doing, and her continued bullying showed a lack of love toward him.

As I closed out our talk, I suggested he sit down with her and ask for a gag order on all political talk in their home. For the sake of something much more valuable, their marriage, they should avoid bringing up politics. Surely there are much more rewarding things in their lives to discuss than the news?

Tell me, would you put a gag on yourself if you knew it would save one of your relationships? This is why as a pastor I avoid all religious posts and talk, in public or on Facebook. Though I have the right to speak out, there is no political view that’s more important than any friend I cherish.

No relationship I have is worth losing over politics!

God meant us to live in community with each other: that’s what church is all about! But I’m convinced we are way too quick to trash our precious relationships. So I’m determined to watch my mouth and hold my friends close whenever possible.

Do you have the right to protest, to speak your mind, to shout your opinion? Sure, you do. But maybe wisdom would call for silence in the midst of such volatility….

And right now in our country, everyone’s heart is on their sleeve while their foot is in their mouth.

So be careful. For soon, you may be shouting all alone in an empty room. And like the tree falling in the forrest that no one hears, it won’t matter what you say if there’s no one left to hear it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “How Not to be a Jerk

  1. Well said, Dave. Some things are worth fighting over and some things are not. It’s important to know which is which.
    Please keep up the fine work and avoid those who would pull you down☕️