At what point did it become mandatory to have to like everyone and accept their ways of living? Over my career, I’ve met lots of people who don’t like me and that’s fine. You’re allowed to not like me. I think you’re making a mistake because (written playfully) I think I’m great, but I’m clearly biased. Frankly, if you think everyone needs to like you, you’re either socially blind or very misguided – neither option is good. In this world where there are clearly bad people around, shouldn’t we want a few people not to like us and/or disagree with us? Realistically, if bad people like you that could be a bad sign. If good people don’t, we should double check what we’re doing, but either way, good people can disagree with each other. The difference is good people will accept that and not verbally beat you into compliance or backstab you and try to ruin your reputation – that’s what makes a person bad. People who are belligerent, venomous, spiteful, revenge driven, emotionally controlling, or nasty in any way, those are the bad people who make the world worse.
What scares me is we live in a culture where the wrong people not liking you can destroy your life. When did “cancelling” people become a reality? This is another way of asking: When did we encourage spitefulness and being revenge driven? I miss the days when good people didn’t have to walk on eggshells afraid of offending the wrong person or group. Apparently, if you appear not to like a specific group of people, you’re the world’s worst person and that group has permission to punish you with all the hateful revenge that group can muster. But how does hating someone who doesn’t like you make any sense? (foolish person): “You don’t like me? I’m going to be mean to you, so you have a good reason not to like me even more! That’ll teach you.”
If there is conflict in your life or if someone doesn’t like you, deal with it on your own. If you go on social media or in the news telling a sob story against someone else, you are a toxic person. And if you encourage that kind of hatred, you’re just as bad. I call this kind of behavior, “army building,” and it’s one of the tools of someone who is passive aggressive. I used to be bad for it with my first girlfriend. After a problem, I’d go to all my friends, tell them my side of the story, they’d tell me I was right (obviously, they were my friends and they only heard my side), and then I’d go back to my girlfriend to say, “Everyone says I’m right.” Meanwhile, she would retort, “But the youth pastor said I’m right.” There’s a brilliant fight. Can you see how this behavior sucks? (foolish person) “Everyone says you’re right? Oh shoot, I must be wrong even though we have two very different perspectives of what happened.” At the same time, it also messes with the other person’s head: (foolish person) “Everyone doesn’t like me? Who’s everyone? Is it everyone in the world? How could I be so blind?” What’s sad to me is I talked to 21 year olds who naturally didn’t know any better, but my ex-girlfriend talked to a 40 something year old youth pastor who played into it. How come he didn’t help her see that this type of behavior was wrong? The answer to that is simple: Very few people realize how dangerous this is including leaders. From my experience, a lot of leaders are very passive aggressive themselves, which helped them get into power in the first place and a reason they’re happy to throw someone else under the bus to save themselves.
So if I’m going to complain about this kind of behavior, I need to be ready to teach what should be happening. Here are a few basic rules our society should have to memorize and try to put into practice:
- “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Rom 12:21)
- “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Rom 12:18) This is important because “Joy fills hearts that are planning peace! (Pro 12:20b)
My favourite rule for dealing with conflict is actually a New Testament verse that quotes a Jewish proverb (a two-fer verse, so it has to be important).
- “If your enemies are hungry, feed them./ If they are thirsty, give them something to drink./ In doing this, you will heap/ burning coals of shame on their heads (Rom 12: 20)
How much better would the world look if this was how we all lived? We could end the use of hate and revenge and replace it with kindness. That’s the kind of world I want.
So what does this practically look like? This past week I had a really cool experience that could’ve gone very wrong. I was at a local park in a rougher area with my two and four year olds along with my brother and his four and six year olds. While we were there, a group of four young people came around. I’m guessing it was a fourteen year old girl with her boyfriend and then an eleven and eight year old. I didn’t see what happened, but at one point I could hear in the distance the eleven year old losing his mind swearing. Shortly after that he was in the park again still swearing, and then he punched the younger kid who fell over as he screamed, “You shouldn’t hit people in the eye with a stick! You should say you’re sorry!” He repeated this type of statement over and over with some extra swearing and the odd kick or punch to the smaller kid. Those two soon ended up in their group of four at a picnic table as the 14 year old girl joined the 11 year old with screaming and swearing. I finally relented and went over to say something because it had gone on long enough. Just before I spoke, a woman about 55 years old walking her dog very firmly told the four to take it somewhere else. Even at my current age if someone said this to me, I would simply say, “I’m sorry,” and I would move; you know, I’d be polite. I could even say sorry and after the person left, go back to what I was doing, and that would be fine because at least I showed respect to the person by having a gentle response. This group of four, however, went with the opposite of me. Both the potty mouth 11 and 14 year olds started swearing at her. The woman, seemingly shocked by their response, amped it up and started yelling at them louder. Can you guess how the kids responded? They started yelling louder. The woman now very flustered, started throwing in some insults. And how’d the kids respond? They apologized… or not. They started insulting her. What’s the woman going to do now? She can walk away feeling terrible or amp it up to try to make the kids shut up and show her respect. She went with threatening to call the cops – the trump card. This time the 14 year old boy piped in: “Go ahead; we’re not doing anything illegal.” This time the woman realizing she was out of threats, started to walk away yelling as she left while 11 and 14 year continued screaming back. To be honest, this woman was a huge blessing to me because it set me up for a great moment.
So… my turn. Now the question becomes can the therapist do better? I started by exclaiming, “Can I ask a question?” The four kids were quite confused by this and after a brief pause in their yelling, the 14 year old girl started whining, “She was being rude to us! She was being rude to us!” It was like I became a judge or she was justifying her actions for fear of another attack. My response? I went with replying, “You’re right. She was being rude.” This seemed to confuse the girl. I continued, “She was being very rude. Out of curiosity, would you say she was ruder than you or were you equally rude?” The 14 year old boy responded first, “Equally rude.” The girl then added, “But she was being really rude,” so I again agreed with her and repeated the question. This time the response from one of them was the classic, “She started it.” I again affirmed them, “Yes, she did, and it makes sense you were rude back because people are mirrors. If someone is rude to us, we’re likely going to be rude to them.” One of the kids asked why the woman would even say anything. I told them that was a very good question, and then I pointed out that grownups get very protective of little kids. The 11 year old justified his actions by saying how they’ll hear those words eventually anyway, and I again affirmed him, “You’re right; they will, but we try to keep little kids away from it as long as we can.” When the 11 year old complained about being hit in the eye, I again affirmed him, “Yes, that would really hurt and you deserved an apology, but do you think if you punch someone and scream at them, they’ll want to apologize or will they be angry at you for hurting them?” At one point the eight year old said something, and I affirmed him as well, “Yes, and I’m guessing it would be very scary for you because you’re smaller than the other kids and you were getting attacked.” The conversation lasted about five minutes and the 14 year old boy really seemed to get what I was saying and appeared to be on my side as he helped encourage his friends to listen. Over the conversation, the group calmed down to a normal state, and sensing this I thanked them for being respectful to me and I wished them a good day. A little while later when we left, I waved and shouted across the park to them, “Nice meeting you!” and they said it back to me… you know, like a mirror. I’m pretty sure I blew their minds that day, but there is a chance after I left they were like “That guy was such a loser.” Either way, it’s out of my hands and they’re allowed to think whatever they want, and it won’t affect me. Whether they like me or not doesn’t matter. Was I a good person who treated them with respect? Yes. That’s what matters.
This situation is a great example of how people ultimately just want to feel understood and affirmed. Here is the tool set for calming the situation:
- I tried to show I cared about them. Unlike the older woman who tried to force them into submission, I pretty much repeated what the person said back to them, which is a great way to help people feel heard and understood.
- I used my “Yes and” tool I’ve taught numerous times in blogs where you accept what the person gives you and then you add onto it.
- Any confrontation point was addressed with a question with two options: Is it this or is it that?
- I had quick one sentence points to answer their questions. Talking too much will risk upsetting them or cause you to lose their attention.
- I spoke to them like my equals and not below me. This means avoiding statements as much as possible and using questions with two options to make them self reflect.
Being an outsider when people are angry is a dangerous spot, and you have to be very careful because angry people are dumb and ready to attack anything that threatens them (e.g. the woman walking her dog). Fortunately, the kids were so desperate to feel understood, they responded well to me.
For the record, if the woman hadn’t something I would’ve opened with, “Can I ask a favor?” This way they’d still feel respected and not just told what to do.
This week may you consider how you can help reduce conflict by showing love, which looks a lot like helping people feel heard and understood.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)