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The Answer

So, the question is a pretty fair one: If a person I care about fits all the things you’re describing here, what can I do about it? How am I supposed to help the other person see the obstacles in their ways of thinking if bringing it up will just get more of the same from them?

Previously, I said that if you really want to help the other person see the obstacles in their ways of thinking, you might hate the answer to that question.

I’ve got to illustrate the answer before I give the answer. Jesus often told a parable before directly making his point in plain language. Here goes; a true story.  

When I was a junior in high school, I had a friend named Rolland. Maybe the friendliest guy I knew. I really enjoyed our friendship. We were in a couple of the same classes. We both enjoyed, and excelled in, drama the most.

During “down time” in rehearsals, we were able to converse about a topic that we were both fairly passionate about, but not experts at: religion. Oh, and we also weren’t experts in diplomacy. A bad combination to say the least.

So, fast forward to the day I came across what I believed to be a very well-written little booklet, what some might call a Bible tract, complete with nicely-drawn comic-book-style characters. These characters were having the same discussion Rolland and I were having. Same topic.

Well, I guess I mean the same discussion I wanted to have with Rolland. You see, the fellow in the little comic book/booklet who represented the side of the discussion that reflected what I happened to believe “won” the discussion/argument and I thought that was pretty cool.

I thought it was so cool, in fact, that I determined that it would be a good idea for me to go ahead and slip a copy of that little comic-book-style booklet into Rolland’s locker through one of the vent slots on the locker door. And that’s exactly what I did.

My Bible tract delivery was done well after school when no one was around. It’s not that I was ashamed of what I was doing or embarrassed about the content of the literature that I was secretly giving to Rolland. I just figured the content would have more credibility to Rolland as he read it if he read it for what it said without knowing who had given it to him.

I waited a few days and then one day just blurted out the question, “So, did you read it?” I figured he’d know what I was referring to… and he did. I’ll never forget the glare he shot me before repeating, “You put that in my locker? YOU put that in my locker?”

He was hurt. I was shocked that he was reacting this way because, in my ignorance, I didn’t know any better. I thought he’d smile and say something like, “Oh, you gave me that thing? Well, here. Check this out. I wrote out my points of disagreement with that. Read it and get back to me.” Instead, he poked his finger in my chest and said, “You are not my friend any-more.”

And that was that. Lesson learned. Hard lesson learned.

It took me a while to conclude that I was the one in the wrong and that Rolland’s reaction was pretty reasonable, especially given our maturity level at the time. If I could apologize to him, I would. I’ve looked out for him at every class reunion. I really am sorry. Friends don’t conduct a discussion about religion with Bible tracts surreptitiously slipped into their partner’s locker. It’s insulting and cowardly. I know that now. I am sorry, Rolland.

Really there’s no such thing as winning an argument about religion. Deeply held beliefs cannot be argued out of a person. By definition, argument means conflict. A clash of ideas. A disagreement.

So, here’s how I directly answer the question: If the other person shows no sign of interest in any of this [Hint: they aren’t interested — otherwise you wouldn’t be in this place in your relationship], your job is to leave them alone when it comes to all of this and work on being the best parent, son, daughter, spouse, or friend you can be to that person. That’s it.

Had I foregone my indirect attempts at winning an argument with Rolland and, instead, chosen to continue our casual conversations, as circumstances allowed, then we’d probably still be good friends to this day. By pushing my agenda, and by doing so in the way I did it, I was not showing myself to be his friend. I was showing myself to be his opponent.

If only someone had revealed this powerful secret to me, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache. Listen, our job isn’t to win arguments! Our job isn’t to change those around us. Our job isn’t to add to whatever tensions already exist in our relationships.             

Take whatever you read here that you can apply to yourself and apply it! That’s the answer to the question. Want to see changes in your relationships? Lead the way.

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