Story softens us. Even when your stories differ, they still matter because you can learn from them. Threads of someone else’s story can inform your own.Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)
There is something powerful about sharing stories–especially personal ones. It’s why we gravitate to memoirs, biographies, and historical fiction. It’s why we watch and rewatch movies about the underdog finally getting his chance and winning. It’s why we gather in small groups and open our hearts with people that used to be strangers. There is something in all of us that wants to be heard, known, and accepted by others.
But what do you do when you are face to face with someone that is polar opposite to you? How do you interact peacefully with microwave personalities if you are a slow cooker?
Microwave vs. Slow Cooker Personalities
It’s hard to imagine the modern world without a microwave but, believe it or not, I still remember a time in my childhood when we didn’t have one. If you wanted to pop popcorn, you had to cook it slowly on the stove or over a fire. If you wanted a baked potato, you had to prep it and but it in the oven for over an hour. It took time to get to the value we wanted, but it was worth it. Some would argue it even tasted better because of it.
People are like that too. Some people are like microwaves; they have no filter and tell the story of their life to anyone who will listen in person or at a distance through their social media. Others are like slow cookers; they are extremely selective about what they tell and how they tell it and only a select trusted few know the full truth of what is going on with them. Though neither approach is right or wrong, it causes great strife and comparison in relationships.
I love family dinners at grandmama Whitman’s house. She pulls out all the stops. Sometimes my uncle puts some meat on the grill or smoker on the porch. Most times, it’s grandmama putting all her tools to use and pacing herself through days to get the work done. Pressure cookers, slow cookers, air fryers, refridgerators, the oven, and the microwave team up to cook country food at its finest, and the counters fill with the fruit of their efforts. Yellow squash and onions. Tomato roast with home canned tomatoes. Pork chops and gravy. Vegetable beef stew. Crispy fried chicken wings. Fresh and hot loaded potato wedges. Warm rolls. Fresh pecan pie with double the pecans. Blueberry or peach cobbler with crispy buttery crusts. Butterscotch pudding with a pecan cookie crust and layers of cream cheese goodness. Rice and tomatoes with more home canned tomatoes. Stewed potatoes and kale. Butter beans. Field peas.. All with a little bacon grease for flavoring.
What would those family dinners look like if the pressure cookers suddenly decided they refused to work with the air fryers? What would we miss if our appliances decided to cop an attitude and refuse to sit in the same room much less partner together with someone who cares for food differently than them? I doubt a single dish would make it to the counter; there would be too much infighting.
People are like that too. We let the differences in our personalities and values dictate how we interact with each other. We dismiss people entirely if we disagree with their lifestyle, but we rarely pause to ask about their story. We rarely listen to the experiences that led them to be who and where they are today. How different would the world be if we listened more with curiosity and kindness than fear and judgment?
Making Peace With The Enemy
We have to get to the place where we can sit around the table with people that are hard to love and realize: I am worthy and so are you and that cannot be disputed.Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)
If you are stuck looking at the world through your own values, it is easy to dismiss people as your enemies who don’t measure up to them. You can even feel justified and holy doing so, but that isn’t Christianity. In Christianity, we are taught to be more like Christ because we are the image of him left on the Earth. We emulate Christ by studying how he lived his life, learning from those studies, and practicing faith and generosity in our daily lives. When I study the life of Christ, I don’t see him spending all his time with people that agreed with him. Yes, he shared his closest thoughts with friends he trusted who believed in him, but the majority of his time was spent with people who doubted him, lived ungodly lifestyles, and followed other gods. He came to heal the sick and broken and mentor leaders for them not isolate with the ones already healed and believing.
How does that translate into relationships today? How does this have anything to do with getting along with difficult people at work or around the table with you this holiday? It has everything to do with it.
The first step to dealing with difficult people is realizing you don’t know everything and that someone else’s story has value too.
You can’t put yourself on a pedestal and dismiss others. Jesus didn’t. Stop justifying the ways you are better than someone else and own the fact that you have been hurtful too.
- Apologize with true heartfelt words if that is possible and necessary; don’t let discord become a root of bitterness in your home or family.
- Recognize the value of stories and invite the “enemy” into thoughtful discussion, but put a pin in it before the talks turn heated.
- Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and generosity within boundaries. You don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle to show them love, nor do you have to empty your bank account to be Jesus to others. Set limits for how much you do for free and how much disagreeable behavior you put up with, and don’t let yourself be pressured to give past those limits.
Different is Just Different, Don’t Make It Worse
Just like all the different kitchen appliances serve their purpose and work together to prepare feasts at grandmama’s house, so do people work together in the family of God to bring to life the Kingdom of God on this Earth.
We are all broken vessels and imperfect people, but God loves to work through brokenness and imperfection because (as the Apostle Paul said) “his power is made perfect in our weakness”.
It is tempting to see ourselves as better than others when our values don’t align. But if you are both serving the same God to the best of your ability, how can competition with each other make you more beneficial to the Kingdom? It doesn’t. In fact, infighting amongst Christians actually has been documented as one of the chief causes of pushing people away from God and the church. Outsiders use that struggle as evidence that God either doesn’t exist or isn’t worth it because he clearly isn’t helping you have a better attitude or be a better person.
Don’t be the one giving an unbeliever reasons to turn further from God. Be the bigger person. Forgive and forget offenses and strive for peaceful interactions within boundaries.