Tolerance

7:21 AM

You don't know quite how it happens, but you're having a normal conversation until the CONTROVERSY arrives in full regalia. Sarcasm flies from side to side -- snark snickers -- the others try to one-up each other in jokingly belittling that ridiculous belief, that absurd like, that knucklehead practice.

You get quieter and quieter. That ridiculous belief is yours. That absurd like is yours. That knucklehead practice is yours.

And nobody knows except, maybe, the one friend who notices the half-smile on your face, the semi-giggle -- and if he's amazing, he cuts in with a gentle volte face in the conversation.

I hate that suffocation.

It ticks me off when people bash Calvinism or belittle a movie or song that touched me or sarcastically question my convictions, all without knowing a representative of said beliefs and likes is standing two inches away from them. But I take it. It makes me laugh later on, makes me feel like I have a powerful little secret that I can launch on the unsuspecting circle and watch them scramble for all the nice things they never would have said otherwise. (I'm horrible like that.) And I smile to myself and maybe raise my eyebrows at a fellow underground compatriot. No big deal. I count that as tolerance.

But when it's my friend who's a different denomination and someone says something offhandedly rude -- I say nothing. When people are gossiping about a certain person who's different, I swallow hard -- and say nothing. When people disagree with me without knowing it on something important and life-changing and I have the perfect chance to share the truth, I take a deep breath -- and say nothing.

It's tolerance, no? Not making mountains out of mole hills, not rippling the water? I don't want to judge. I don't want to Bible-bash heads. I don't want to come across as the obnoxious know-it-all I can be quite well.

Love. Grace. And pray for the Lord to work. Tolerance.

I came from a legalistic "faith" to the saving grace in Christ. I don't want to go back -- nitpicking and smugly judging and naively determining. And I don't want to heap condemnation on others' heads. I want to speak truth, speak love, speak grace, and not jump on issues of second importance.

Now I'm not saying anything at all.

It amazes me how outspoken others are about their beliefs and practices, their church and doctrines, their lifestyles and choices. They never seem to feel the least hesitation in sharing their controversial opinion in public. They never appear to hold qualms about whether their voice would offend -- it's a group of friends, after all. They spill their opinions to me as if I have no feelings, no beliefs: just two stiff open arms awkwardly gathering in all this baggage no one else will listen to. Sometimes they offend me with the insensitive way their raw words don't even try to take into consideration the fact I might feel differently. But frankly, it doesn't bother me too much.

So why can't I share my thoughts?

I feel so offensive. Yes, I can be a total bonehead about grammar or Wuthering Heights or anything related to nothing important. There I dig in and fire both barrels. But in the natural course of conversation when opinions come up and I'm invited to share mine, I freeze. I freeze.

Because I know what to say. I know it's true. I've rehearsed the argument. I've thought out my opinion. It's not that.

And it's not because I'm tolerant or big-hearted or gracious. Or maybe it is -- in a sneaky, selfish way.

It's because I don't want to look bad. It's because I want to be liked -- permanently, ridiculously liked. If I mention the holes in a friend's belief or interject my own controversial opinion or spill a little more of what I truly feel, she might not like me anymore. Oh, she might talk to me -- but I might scare her off. I might lose her confidence. I might become a little niggle of irritation in the back of her mind.

That is horrible to me -- being disliked. Going from a pleasant, amiable person to That One Who Disagrees With Me On Some Issue.

If life were a game of gaining good graces -- but it isn't. Out there in this big world, there are truths, beautiful truths, that must be shared, that must be defended -- graciously, lovingly and out loud. Tolerance works when discussing pizza or favorite colors or even, I suppose, grammar rules. It fails miserably when dealing with life and death, truth and falsehood -- when the soul of another hangs in the balance next to my well-liked ego. Keeping the water calm is a cruel protection of my image when another or another's belief is being attacked unfairly.

How to do the seemingly impossible -- speak truth in love -- I do not have figured out. What I do know now is that Tolerance and Love can both be selfish covers for a heart that does not wish to look bad.

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11 impressions

  1. You're exactly right, Bailey. This is a very difficult thing to learn how to do, and I haven't learned it yet, either. I pray that the Lord would help both of us to be gentle but bold in what we say.

    Love in Christ,
    Vicki

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  2. Yes. If somebody is saying something that is WRONG, it is not loving to smile and nod. That is not even tolerance. It is acceptance. You are acting like you agree...and that it is right. I have done this.
    It would probably help if you [we] disagreed out of love for our God, not intellectual pride. We should correct the person, not so we can say, "I'm right, you're wrong," but because we love God and love the truth, and the truth will set this person free.
    Out of love.
    <><

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  3. I think I get the jist of what you are saying here, and I admire you for being honest about it, but something confuses me. You say (or at least imply) that you are Calvinist. And then towards the end you say, "It [tolerance] fails miserably when dealing with life and death, truth and falsehood -- when the soul of another hangs in the balance next to my well-liked ego." To be Calvinist is to believe in predestination, correct? So how can someone's soul hang in the balance next to any action or lack of action of yours? I assume I am misunderstanding what you mean by being Calvinist or what you mean when you use the phrase about the soul - or maybe both! If you could elucidate, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks!

    Adele

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  4. My problem would be, what if I mess up what I'm trying to say, make a fool of myself, and thus make them not listen to me? I know that I should just say the truth and leave it up to God to work in their hearts. It's just hard, I guess, if I say something, and know they won't listen, then why bother? It seems like it's not always worth it to speak up, even if I know I'm right. If I know in the end, we won't give in to each other's side, then it seems worthless. I like hearing people talk around me about a certain belief or something, and me believing the opposite without them knowing, and I can find out what my opponent thinks. You know? As if learning the opponents' point of view to have better ammunition when you do get in a discussion. Seems selfish and yet why do people read the Communist Manifesto? Certainly most don't read it because they want to become Communist. They read it to know how their enemy thinks.

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  5. Adele, I've missed your insight lately! Thank you for your question.

    "Calvinism" is such a loaded word. And it's such a loaded topic. But I'll do my best to give satisfaction.

    When I say I'm a Calvinist, I mean that I believe (1) that man is hopelessly lost in his sins and his sin nature prevents him from having any truly saving desire to do good or be righteous; (2) that God is infinitely sovereign (including matters of salvation -- predestination); and (3) that His Spirit alone is able to regenerate a heart, apply grace and ultimately save a person.

    Calvinism spends much time focusing on God's sovereignty and is often stereotyped as propounding that man has absolutely no responsibility or role in either evangelizing or his own salvation.

    While I think Scripture makes it clear about the above facets of God's sovereignty, it's also explicit about the duties of man: we are called to repent, to believe, to evangelize, to disciple, to teach -- among many other things.

    How these things work -- how we can have a fully sovereign God and a fully responsible humanity -- I do not know and I do not think humans can know to the extent that we'd like. I can only go from what Scripture teaches. I believe it clearly teaches both the duty of people to repent (and the duty of me, a believer, to speak truth in love) and the sovereignty of God, so I don't see a dichotomy between saying I'm a Calvinist and knowing that lives hang in the balance.

    From God's POV they don't. To me they do. I must be faithful in being ME -- I know God will be faithful in being God.

    Of course there are so many more issues regarding Calvinism. This is my nutshell opinion. ;o)

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  6. Thank you very much for your thoughtful response, Bailey. You just gave me more insight into the thinking of Calvinists (or at least you as a Calvinist) than I've ever had before. Calvinism has always been a particularly difficult theology for me to even begin to understand and consequently, I've always had a lot of trouble relating to Calvinists. It seems to me you actually have speaking truth in love down pretty well - especially considering you are only 17! :-)

    Adele

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  7. Thank you! It's certainly by the grace of God that I speak any truth with any amount of love, considering how pigheaded I normally am. You encourage me.

    I totally get the non-relating to Calvinism part. It seems to attract the strangest sorts...from hyper-Calvinists to secular critics who present such a disturbing picture of God that it deserves a bad rap.

    Though I do want to make sure I point to Christ and His salvation more than a specific brand of Christianity. It's not Calvin that's right...unless he lines up with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for letting me spill my thoughts!

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  8. Right, Bailey. We call ourselves "Calvinists" as a shortcut, basically. We don't believe everything he believed, and he wouldn't agree with us on everything. But we believe what the Bible says on key topics, and so did Calvin. So we line up with him there.

    Anyway. I struggle with sharing my thoughts just as much as Bailey. Maybe more. I prefer listening. But listening is not always the thing to do.
    <><

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  9. "It ticks me off when people bash Calvinism...." Are you a Calvinist?

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  10. Yes, I am, where Calvinism agrees with Scripture. See above comment conversation with Adele if you want to know what I mean by it. :o)

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