The other day I took some heat from someone who was upset with me for stepping into a conversation turned debate and trying to shut it down. It was one of those conversations that was going nowhere. And I actually raised my hand in the middle of our group meeting to interrupt and ask everyone a simple question:
“What was the original inquiry that started this whole thing again?”
Because about ten minutes into the group conversation, I was seriously confused as to what the topic even was anymore. And at some point in the back and forth discussion, I realized that our usual culture of having an open forum for idea sharing with concurrent value for individual viewpoints was nowhere to be seen.
I saw that the conversation had turned a bit nasty and had progressed into a right or wrong discussion, which basically meant that no one could win this particular argument. Because if someone actually won the debate, it meant the other one would lose.
And it was two against one, which was so uncool.
I might not have stepped into that moment and attempted to throw the kibosh on the debate had it not been a good friend of mine sitting in the actual hot seat. But it was and I did. And looking back on the situation now, I’d do it all over again because my heart’s motivation in that moment was love.
The truth was that I cared about my friend and I didn’t like to see her getting verbally pecked at like a woodpecker by people trying to make their point at her expense.
Not to mention the fact that it was me that had asked the original question that started this whole circus parade. And my question was meant to just be a casual check-in on my friend’s wellbeing because I had noticed she’d gone radio silent.
But the whole thing just sort of blew up.
I felt somewhat responsible for the verbal tornado that my inquiry caused, even though I knew that technically it wasn’t my fault. I knew I couldn’t control another person’s need to be right or point-proving agenda.
I knew I wasn’t that powerful.
But I did know that I had the right as a human being to step into the flow of conversation and say that I thought we needed to end the meeting because it wasn’t going anywhere. I knew that I had the right to try and help extricate my friend out of an increasingly awkward situation.
Because I didn’t like bullies.
And even though there was no physical pushing or shoving, the verbally-forced control of the conversation was enough. And no one should have to sit in a stream of verbal questioning that feels accusatory and attacking of their belief system and opinions. Debating in my opinion is ungodly anyway, because it is never motivated by love or an attempt to understand. It is always motivated by an attempt to be right.
Jesus told us people would know us by our LOVE—not by our ability to have a roaring good debate or dogmatically attempt to prove right or wrong.
And so looking back, I have no regrets about how I handled the situation. Even though I didn’t do it perfectly. Even though I took some conversation heat for it later from the same person who proctored the initial debate who now wanted to pour some shame on me and convince me that I had control issues.
Even though I cried about it on the drive home because of the emotional toll it took on me.
The reality is that I am not a badass conflict-management person by nature. I’m a peacemaker. I’m a healer. I love pouring love and mercy into broken people. But bullies are another story. Bullies can’t be coddled or appeased or they will never change. And people who use manipulation, intimidation, shame, religion or passive-aggressive behavior to control others are in essence bullies.
They need to be stood up to.
So even though I’m not great at it yet, even though it still feels scary, and even though it’s taken me a loooong time to get here, I’ve finally grown enough spiritual balls TO START to stand up to them.
And I’m proud of myself for being brave in the name of love.
Because I’m not just pushing back against a bully when I do, I’m also pushing back against my learned passivity upbringing—where the only conflict coping mechanism I accrued was how to freeze in the midst of it all and become invisible.
So God has been intentionally building and strengthening my stand-up-to-bullies muscle.
My knees still wobble when I do it sometimes. And that’s okay. I know it’s all part of the journey and I don’t have to do it perfectly.
But when I stand before the throne one day and Jesus asks me if I learned to love, I want to be able to say YES:
Yes, I showed kindness and mercy to the broken.
Yes, I stood up to bullies in the name of advocating for others.
Yes, I learned to yield to love.