This week, I had a phone call with a long-time friend. During our call, my friend said, “So, you wake up every day and write something and put a target on your back.” I had never thought of expressing opinions in such a way, but my friend has a point. Anytime we express an opinion our head pops up above the crowd and we become a visible and vulnerable target to opposing opinions. It happens all the time on social media. It can happen over a family dinner or in a casual conversation at a local coffee shop.
Our culture currently resembles an arcade game at a county fair where targets of opinion pop up and we feel an obligation to shoot them down. In this cultural shooting gallery, those who shoot down the most targets win the most prizes. That reward system can gain a following on social media who enjoy watching dishonoring conflict. People buy some popcorn, take a seat, and watch the conflict develop like a cheap action move.
This is not just a cultural problem. Impulsive shots of correction are being fired with frequency within the Church. These shots are fired using the ammunition of our personal interpretation of reality that leans heavily in the direction of our upbringing, life experience and training. I’ve had people challenge what I wrote and had to ask myself, “Did they actually read what I wrote?” Some of you might feel a sense of bewilderment after a difficult conversation and ask yourself, “Did they hear what I just said?”
We all have opinions. Divergent opinions can be entertained with wisdom and patience. They can help us become more informed if we interact with each honor and respect, not firing off undisciplined shots of dismissal and correction as our first response.
None of our opinions are ever comprehensive or final. Instead of firing at each other prematurely without the inquiry and interaction required to unpack another person’s intent with integrity, we should put down our relational arcade guns and listen to the other person. The prize offered to those who refuse to take the easy cheap shot is a prize of much greater value.