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Because we can't change others

My dear friend Persis has a great post today at Out of the Ordinary this morning. It was just what I needed.

Yesterday was not a good day. It started early in the morning (or is 1:40 am still considered night?) with a dog in a paroxysmal fit of "reverse sneezing," which interrupted my slumber. I never really got entirely back to sleep and I had a lot of homework ahead of me.

And then I read an article that just angered me (which just goes to show that I shouldn't be wasting time on social media when I have homework; shame on me). And I was angered at the number of people on my Facebook feed who were lauding it and sharing it. Stupid Facebook, I thought. I considered blogging about it, but thankfully, I knew I didn't have the time. Then, I went about getting my homework done. A few hours of parsing Greek nouns and reading Eusebius was therapeutic. And I realized that talking about it would not have been helpful.

It is so tempting to think that our well-crafted (or not so well-crafted) words will change the hearts of others. We believe our words will cause others to re-think things and change their minds. Some even think that shaming their opponents will work. It usually doesn't. People don't usually read a blog post and have a complete change of heart. Our belief that it does is what keeps the fires of debate raging. And most of the time, those arguments fall on deaf ears.

As I get older, I see the need to step away. Continuing a debate with the idealistic belief that my input will change someone's mind will ultimately drag me down. I will forget to do what Persis suggested in her post, to "think on these things." How much does my belief that I can change things motivate self-focused writing rather than honest reflection on my own heart and attention to the Word of God? As Persis said in her article, just because people don't engage doesn't mean they don't care. But there is a point when we must face the fact that we will change no one.

I am only 52, but I'm getting too old for that stuff. I am under no illusion that I can change anyone except myself. And even then, I need the Holy Spirit to do that. Of all the things I have learned over the years, the truth that I cannot change others has been the hardest. And really, it should not be such a surprise. It should be fairly self-evident. But it's freeing when you really think about it. I'm not responsible for the hearts of other people. I can give time and attention to do what Persis suggests: to think on the truths of God and let them change me.

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Reader Comments (4)

I'm glad the OOtO post encouraged you. I was dealing with a mood yesterday, and L gave me some great advice. She told me I should write what I needed to read. Praying is engaging but with God on behalf of someone or something. Funny that it took so long for me to realize that.

October 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPersis

Writing what we need to read; that is excellent advice!

October 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKim Shay

Just yesterday I had an online discussion with a real-life friend, in a private FB group. By the Lord's grace, I was able to make my points with Scripture and leave it there. I know the topic of our debate is not one that can be resolved through online - and perhaps not even offline - discussion. I had to pray for strength to back away. It's not my natural instinct at all.

How much does my belief that I can change things motivate self-focused writing rather than honest reflection on my own heart and attention to the Word of God? Great question! I did find that taking the to form my argument caused me to think on these things as I looked to Scripture and pondered it, making sure my beliefs were grounded in the truth of God's Word. The fast pace of social media usually doesn't allow the luxury of time; we're often too worried that we will be passed by if we don't respond quickly enough. I was thankful for a group setting, so that I felt I could respond in my own time.

October 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

You are much braver than I, Melissa, because I have decided never to participate in a Facebook group ever again, regardless of whether or not I know the participants personally. I really debated deactivating my Facebook for good yesterday, and if it weren't the fact that I use it to keep in touch with family members, I would.

October 19, 2017 | Registered CommenterKim

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