Handling disagreements can be tricky.
You know what’s trickier? When the two sides don’t even agree about whether it matters.
For instance, this weekend, I read an article about Christian views of Halloween. The article pointed out that many Christians don’t celebrate Halloween, viewing it as something linked to Satan and the occult. (The church I grew up in had a “Fall Festival” each year as an alternative to trick-or-treating.)
But there are many other Christians who view Halloween very differently. They have no problem with celebrating it, and it may boggle their minds to think that some Christians do. When I mentioned to a Christian friend of mine that I had just read an article about Halloween’s divisiveness among Christians, she responded with surprise: Divisive? Really? Halloween?
One side views it as an incredibly serious issue. The other side has trouble fathoming why there’d be any controversy at all.
Or here’s another example. I just posted a comic to my blog because it made me laugh. In the final panel of the comic, one of the characters says “Oh God.” It’s a common phrase, one that we hear often here in America, but one that, again, has potential to be controversial.
Personally, I don’t ever say “Oh God.” Growing up, I would have called this “taking the name of the Lord in vain,” which is a sin in the Bible. I now believe that “taking the name of the Lord in vain” actually refers to something else, but I still recognize that many people would view using the word “God” as an expletive as a sign of irreverence. My faith in God is very important to me, and I would never want to come across as trivializing that, so I don’t say it. (I do not, however, believe it is a sin.)
I have plenty of Christian friends who do say it, and they don’t view it as irreverent at all. In some cultures, “My God” or something similar is actually viewed as almost an impromptu prayer, asking for God’s presence or notice to a shocking situation. Others view it as simply an expression, one that could be written with a lowercase “g” and doesn’t even necessarily refer to the one true God. For many of these folks, there’s absolutely nothing controversial here. Even among those who find the phrase objectionable, many wouldn’t think twice about the comic I posted.
But knowing that it could potentially upset some of my friends and readers, I debated about posting the comic. Would someone be upset that I posted a comic with that language? Was it silly to even be concerned about it? I considered posting the comic with a disclaimer, but then I thought that many people would find it laughable that I even felt a need to explain myself. It’s an extremely common expression, after all.
And so, the idea for this blog post was born.
Finding this balance is tricky. Do we walk on eggshells to avoid ever offending someone for any reason? Or do we operate on the other extreme, barging through life saying what we want, not caring if we bulldoze over people’s feelings and concerns in the process?
If my Christian brother or sister is offended by what I eat, am I still acting in love toward them? Paul had quite a bit to say about that.
How many of you have found yourself wrestling with these kinds of questions in your life? How do you find the balance between the eggshells and the bulldozer? Have you been on the receiving end of someone’s not understanding why something mattered as much as it did to you? I’d love to hear your examples and thoughts in the comments.