Take a moment to reflect: when is the last time you got involved in a disagreement with someone? Was it last night with the checkout clerk or the phone support rep you spoke with? Perhaps it was last week with your spouse. You know, about a month ago my wife and I had a really intense argument. Looking back on that moment, there were a couple of underlying attitudes we both had. They weren’t conducive to working through our problem: they simply shut it down.
Attitudes Can Destroy
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Whoever came up with this phrase really just needs to stop. Yes words can hurt, and often a single word said in the heat of a moment can destroy years of built up trust. But today we’re talking about the attitudes those words are said with.
I’m reminded of the time where I reached out to consult with my pastor about how I needed to explain my opinion. I knew I ran the risk of damaging a relationship if said things the wrong way. He helped me come up with a positive way of communicating my position that had an attitude of “let’s work together.”
The only problem is that, when I was pushed back on, my tone shifted to a defensive one. No, I wasn’t being attacked: the person simply asked for clarification. I allowed my frustration to overtake my sensibility. My attitude turned accusatory and the damage was done.
An accusatory attitude. If there was ever a way to tear down a relationship, start a disagreement with the word “You” followed by anything you want. The first of the three attitudes we should never have is possibly the most damaging. The moment you shift the blame or problem onto another person, it doesn’t matter what gets said. It doesn’t matter how right you may be. It’s over. Think about it: has any good ever come from tearing someone else down? Paul told us:
The right response does not start with you: it starts with ourselves. Each interpersonal conflict has a proper response (sometimes, it’s to not have a response at all). With God’s help, we can work through them when we have the right attitude.
Re-read what I just say: “We can work through them.” I didn’t say can’t. I said can.
Can’t is an interesting word. There are some things I can’t do. If you ask my Bible study attendees (and my family) they’d probably say I can’t sing — currently, that is. My voice hasn’t been properly trained to hear the proper pitch. But you know what? 22 years ago if someone would have asked me to pick up the guitar and play along, I could have rightfully responded “I can’t do that.” But today, I can!
It took dedication and practice. Can’t became can when I set my mind to it.
Often, when we say we can’t do something, we’re actually saying we won’t or don’t want to do that thing. Can’t in this context is a defeatist attitude. We’ve given up or set our mind that it’s not possible.
Look, I’m a realist. The likelihood of me winning a singing contest is minimal. But could I be trained to sing on our worship team? The thought of doing so scares me, but consider:
Self-discipline. Determination. A can-do attitude. The task at hand might be out of our comfort zone, but with the right attitude we can accomplish it.
There are going to be times when God asks us to step out of our comfort zone. He might want us to invite our neighbor to a church event or lead a small group study. “But Jeremiah, that’s not how God made me.”
I get it. Trust me. I’m an introvert. Why God called this shy, nervous kid to be a pastor I’ll never know. When we first started attending Union Chapel, my kids tried to sit on the front row. I went straight to the back. We compromised and sat in the middle. I’ve told my Bible study group time and time again that if I had the choice I’d still be heading for that back row, hiding in the background. If I relied on the crutch that expository preaching was only for the outgoing, that leadership was for the bold, I’d never have grown into the person I am today.
The final of our 3 attitudes, “that’s not…” is the attitude of negation. Like the first attitude it doesn’t matter what words follow next. We’ve already said that our human nature is more powerful than God’s power. What is God’s response? Listen to what Paul said:
I bolded the part that I want you to focus on: God’s power works best in our weakness. Most of the time, when I preach at a new church, they have no idea I’m an introvert. When I start my sermon, it’s like a switch: the introvert goes away and an expositor comes out. This is not of my own doing: it’s the hand of God.
Where do we go from here?
Throughout this, I’ve talked about my own faults. I’ve been guilty of tearing others down due to my attitude more times than I care to admit. But that doesn’t mean I wallow in self-pity or worse, self-loathing. God wants us to pick ourselves back up, and rely on Him to overcome our weaknesses.
Listen, the victory has already been won at the cross. Don’t let the accuser tear you down. Know that God is on your side, and because of that, you’ve already won! Will you join me in striving to eliminate these three attitudes from your life?
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