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By Jim Killebrew

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[May 05, 2014]  Did you ever listen to a husband and wife argue, even fight? What about a brother and sister, or two friends, perhaps a girlfriend with her boyfriend? If you listen to enough couples over a long enough period of time you will discover that a pattern emerges.

The conversation starts with low tones, just an exchange of thoughts verbalized by each party in their own words. There are glances, smiles, frowns, looks of puzzlement, surprise or joy. Then it happens: a word spoken or an opinion is given; it falls on ears that register disagreement and a flag goes up to prepare for the onslaught of further disagreements. A counterstatement is spoken by another person, then another; the other counters and voices begin to become strained. Visceral reactions are charged and emotions begin to explode; the fight stance begins its countdown.

In very short order one party begins to raise the decibel level with charges and countercharges and finally, both parties are shouting at each other. At that point the argument accelerates to the level of an all-out fight. Accusations are tossed back and forth, charges are continued, and language may begin to deteriorate from civil diction to rancorous profanity and name-calling. Then suddenly either the man or woman turns from the fight or takes flight leaving slammed doors in the wake. The person then retreats from the room or perhaps leaves entirely; sometimes for hours or even days.

What follows may be the slow-burn process of thinking things over, telling someone else about the fight, trying to elicit supporters for a favored side by trashing not only the position of the other side, but the person on the other side as well. Many, of course, simply bury the dreadful feelings received in the fight and let them fester until callousness or hate consumes the person and all hope of reconciliation is gone.

One theory is postulated that blames ethnocentrism. Defined in Wikipedia, "Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity." What may be true for ethnicity may also be true for personal, relational situations as well.

Mistakenly we charge various misadventures between peoples as racism, when in fact there is only one race: the Human Race. Within the human race are various ethnic groups that form cultures that develop behaviors, customs and religions. We look at those differences and sometimes feel uncomfortable with those differences and sometimes treat those differences with personal hostility. It is not that we are racist; it is that we are ethnocentric because we pre-judge our own behavior as being "right", while we view the other ethnic behavior as being "wrong". The problem is that we all do it to each other.

Individuals make the same mistake. In a relationship we act the same way; we tenaciously hold to our own positions as being "right" and the other positions as being "wrong." My way of doing things is the "best" way to do them. If not "my way" it's the "highway" for you. Yet intellectually in most other instances we agree there are many perceptions to the same incident or situation. In relationships, however, we become rigid and unmoving when challenged in our own preconceptions. Most people are "comfortable" within their own "comfort zone." To try to move them out of that zone is to cause them to exert effort to move; but they usually want to remain right where they are to maintain their personal position.

Really, when we think about it, it is simply a form of self-love. We look through our own eyes and selfishly believe the world revolves around us and any change that needs to be made must be made by others. Even the person who is constantly trying to "change society for the better" is only trying to change it to match their own perception of how it ought to be; and usually that being a match to their own likes and dislikes.

We are warned repeatedly in the Scriptures not to think of ourselves so highly to the point of disregarding others:

"For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith." (Romans 12:3)

"There is a generation whose eyes are so lofty, and whose eyelids are lifted up disdainfully." (Proverbs 30:13)

"Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited." (Romans 12:16)

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"Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself." (Philippians 2:3)

These are admonitions that would help us to get along with each other in our close relationships as well as in our cultural diversity. In the modern vernacular we just need to "chill out." We need to logically think of all possible facets to any question or situation. Look at the other position and see how it fits into our own world. If we can live with it, we need to think about adapting to it.

Surely in the world there will be positions on politics and religion. We may never be able to fully "adapt" to positions that are personally untenable within our own belief structure. But surely with personal issues like buying a gas range vs. an electric range, or painting an object blue vs. indigo is something that logic and negotiation can be used to avoid an argument.

For Christians, however, there is a greater authority and a more direct mandate to avoid personal degradation of character and personality. We are mandated to "get along" and work out our differences since our "commonality" with one another resides in our being in Christ. Just review the writings of the Apostle Paul in Colossians:

Colossians 3

Exhortations to Seek the Things Above

"3:1 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 3:2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3:3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 3:4 When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. 3:5 So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion [think of this as lust], evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. 3:6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. 3:7 You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them. 3:8 But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. 3:9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all."

Exhortation to Unity and Love

"3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 3:13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. 3:14 And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. 3:15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Finally, the Apostle James gives us the path to True Wisdom:

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, and demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace." (James 3:13-18)


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