Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Question That Can Help Us Live Together

I was reading a book about communication this spring that included a chapter that encouraged being direct about our desires and needs. (This is not always an easy thing for Midwesterners or Lutherans, since both groups have a tendency to avoid conflict, but that's a topic for another blog post.)

In the midst of proposing being direct, the book raised an inevitable question: How can be we direct and assertive with about being rude or bullying? One of the suggestions that was offered struck me as very simple and profound. Before speaking, ask yourself one question:

Is this vital or preference?

In other words, is this something that is necessary to address because it may cause harm? Or is it something that's really about my personal preference? If it's the second option, it's probably better to let it go or at least start the conversation with "This may not be important, but I'd prefer..."

Is this vital or preference?

As I think about it, there are times I can get upset when the reason is "I don't like this" instead of "this is a problem." But I think it can be easy to confuse the two because so many things in life are tuned to my preferences. When I can program my car to know exactly where to put my seat when I climb in and I can get almost anything I want delivered to my house in 24 hours, it's hard to remember that what I want isn't the most important thing all the time.  But if we all live thinking that way, we're going to create friction...probably a lot.

Is this vital or preference?

In Lutheranism, we have a word for this. Martin Luther referred to things that were preference as "adiaphora." Literally Latin for "undifferentiated things," adiaphora basically means, "things that aren't life or death issues." In church, that God loves us and transformed the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is vital; whether we serve donuts or danish during coffee hour is adiaphora. Knowing the difference is important to making decisions and keeping the peace.

It's a small thing, but asking "Is this vital or preference?" could be a tool for smoothing relationships, avoiding unnecessary conflict, and learning how to live together. And making the world healthier, happier, and safer for everyone IS vital.

Standing in the Gray,
Pastor Ari

“Hit the wall, have to crawl; even if we lose it all, we're ok.” -The Rescues, “We’re OK”

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