A couple of weeks ago a co-worker and I were having a conversation and she mentioned that I just loved to debate. It was one of those backhanded complements that is what people do when they tell you the truth in love even if it isn’t something you want to hear. She’s a great friend and I appreciated her candor. However, I confess that it stuck with me. I began to look at myself and look in the mirror of my personality to see if this was something that was true about myself.
As I was going through my Facebook feed I saw a post from a friend who has views that are pretty opposite from my own and I began to hastily type a rebuttal to her spiritual proposition that I felt was theologically unsound. In that moment, I realized that my friend who rightly pointed out my love for debate was more correct than I let myself believe. Like a person who sucks in their gut in front of the mirror, I had convinced myself that I was not in as bad of shape as I really was. I realized I had become a pot-stirrer.
Pot-stirrers are infamous for hunting out ways to cause strife in the lives of others, to instigate arguments and heated discussions, and to play devil’s advocate in the debates of others. In general, they are people who just love to make mental trouble for others and clothe it in the garb of good humor. As sad as it was for me to admit it to myself, I had become one myself. I felt myself a crusader for theological good when I really just wanted to experience the joy of being right and someone else being wrong.
In a world that is so heavily immersed in information and social media as ours is, it can be super easy (at least to me it was) to become a pot-stirrer. Most of the time it starts out innocently and without any desire to cause grief to another person. Yet, over time, the desire to get a rise out of someone and be the victor in an argument becomes so strong that a pot-stirrer will take any opportunity to invade someone else’s mental space and try to win the debate (even if they have to play devil’s advocate to do so).
To cap all of this off, in a recent quiet time I read the following passage and the Holy Spirit used it to kick me in the teeth:
“Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23 NLT)
I had to do a double take and reread that passage a few times before it could sink in. I was doing the exact opposite of that passage. I was so eager to talk and say what I felt needed to be said that I was causing strife in the lives of others and possibly even pushing them away from the Kingdom. My goal was to show them that the Gospel can be proven and is trustworthy but I was showing them that a follower of Jesus is really after an argument.
I was reminded of the teachings of Jesus when he said this in the Sermon on the Mount:
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Mark 5:9 NLT)
Other translations call these people ‘peacemakers’. According to the words of Jesus, those who are peacemakers will be called children of God. Again, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me that if I want to be a child of God that I need to be a peacemaker instead of a pot-stirrer. I should be seeking to live at peace with all people rather than trying to cause arguments and debates.
After spending some time repenting I tried to take a renewed approach to life and especially on social media. I remembered this verse and have tried to embody it:
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
I have been seeking to let everything I say be good and helpful so that I am an encourager rather than someone who brings people down. I still want to represent truth and be able to bring an answer into the lives of those who question the Gospel and its message. What has changed, is that I am trying to do so by building relationships and earning my seat at the table. Do you think you might be a pot-stirrer rather than a peacemaker? Here are my questions to you based off of my own experience:
- Do you look for chances to be right? Or, are you genuinely interested in hearing what others have to say?
In my life, I realized I just wanted to be right. If I got honest with myself, I was covering my desires to want to win an argument in theological dressings. When I really examined my motives I saw that I lost track of bringing the Kingdom and only wanted to bring an line of reasoning that left me looking like I was smarter.
- Do you have a nagging feeling when you have a conversation on social media where you look back constantly waiting for the other person to respond? Or, do you have peace about issues when you discuss them?
After I would make a comment on someone’s post I would constantly keep thinking on it and figuring out what their reply might be. Then, I’d begin formulating what my response to their response would be. I would try to get multiple steps ahead of the argument so it would be like a game of chess and that I knew what I would do in a variety of situations. It would stay in my mind and I would be unable to enjoy the present moment because I was so lost in thinking on the argument. Obviously, that was an improper motive.
- Do you find yourself getting angry at another person’s view? Or, do you try to see from their perspective and find common ground?
This one was perhaps the worst part of all; I would allow myself to get so caught up in the debate that I would actually get angry over it. Here is this person that is my friend and I am upset at their perspective. While I believe I am right, where did I get the right to be mad at them for having their own view? When I write it out, it sounds amazingly petty. Yet, the truth is still the truth even when we don’t want to hear it.
After asking those three questions and looking in the spiritual mirror, where do you land? I hope that this is one of those situations where I’m the odd man out. However, if you find yourself drifting over from peacemaker to pot-stirrer that you’ll be honest enough to admit it, repent of it, and change. As for me, my goal is to bring the Kingdom of God rather than my own; to be a peacemaker who is known as a child of God.