This week has caused many different emotions throughout the U.S. with the inauguration of President Trump. For some, his inauguration brought fear and anger. For others, it brought excitement for new possibilities. Some people are indifferent; some are afraid. Others choose to keep their views and emotions to themselves for fear of how those around them will react. Unfortunately, what it seems to have brought most is judgment – unfounded judgment, often of people we’ve never met or with whom we have never had a political conversation.
We don’t ask people what their views are, and even if we do, it’s rarely in a manner that makes them comfortable to speak. It is much easier to formulate stereotypes about people based on what we see on the news, forgetting that typically only out of the ordinary stories make it to the news. Then, it feels justified to tell someone our own passionate, sometimes vitriolic, views first, and then let them respond if they dare.
When it comes to politics, we seem to ignore the fact that the same law can bring relief to one person and hardship to another. Or we might assume that the hardship it brings to one person is worth it to help someone else, even if we ourselves are not affected much, if at all. The truth is, we don’t know how every single person around us is impacted by politics, but we like to assume that we do. Instead of taking the time to listen, we assume we know about other people because of how we would be in that situation…or so we think.
What if we all took the time to ask questions and to listen before expressing our own opinions? What if we gave other people the space to talk about their views without fear of being judged? If we don’t give other people the freedom to speak to us, why should we expect them to listen to us? I know that I have felt the condemnation of people who don’t even know what or why I think the way I do. They spew their opinions of people (like me) who hold opposing views which lets me know where I stand with them, even if they don’t know it. I would love to have a conversation with these individuals about both of our views, knowing that even if neither of us changed our minds, we could still get along. However, I don’t feel that’s the case. I don’t think that many of us feel that’s the case. For Christians, this is a problem.
James 1:19-20 reminds us to “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Being quick to listen and slow to speak are associated with being slow to anger. When we are willing to listen to others before speaking and forming opinions about them, we will be slower to become angry with them. We will gain a better understanding of their perspective, even if we don’t fully agree with it. We will also have the opportunity to lovingly engage in conversation with them and challenge their thinking.