Monday, February 6, 2012

No One Likes A Know It All, But Most People Like To Know.

During my high school and college years, I would correct people when they used incorrect grammar. Is it safe to assume most people who read weblogs also write them? If you also write, then maybe you will relate. If someone misused a word as they told a story to a group of friends, I would interrupt. Of course, I couldn't quietly correct them or point it out later when we didn't have an audience. I had to stop them and ask if they were aware of their error. When they couldn't identify it for themselves, I would point out the correct usage with my shoulders back and eyes half closed. It's hard to believe so many years passed before I learned how much people hated me for it.

The latest Press post reminded me of this period of my life. Lindsey's comment about people wanting to avoid a preachy image also brought it to mind.

All analogies break down, but how well does this one fit? If a man becomes a language teacher, are his lessons most effective in the classroom and in the company of friends or family? If a stranger in line at the movies says something irregular to a friend, how much will the person appreciate the language teacher leaning in and offering a correction?

On the other hand, if the man at the movies were to write a piece for work or his own enjoyment, he might wonder to himself if he has used his words well. He might even ask himself how he could learn.

I think plenty of people want answers. Even if they are hostile in one environment, they might be receptive in another. Many of us have trouble discerning the best time. I know I do, and so I have on several occasions assumed, "this is a bad time." But this means I've called most every opportunity a bad time.

How would you discern a good time to talk about your faith? Do you think your decisions come from a discernment of the other person or a gauge of how comfortable you feel?


MorsIndutus said...

I think it's important, when we correct someone, that we're doing it from a place of love and humility. There's a huge difference between, "Um, I think you meant 'Their' not 'There'" and "It's 'Their', you ignorant #%@$!"

It's also important that you have an actual relationship with someone before you correct them. Even if I'm correcting with humility, if I correct some random person's grammar who is standing in front of me in the checkout line, they're going to be too busy thinking I'm an A-hole to actually listen to the correction.

I don't think this is terribly appealing to a certain class of Christian, because it requires them to have real relationships with non-Christians. Which means we have to be friends with them as they are, not just to proselytize, but because we genuinely care about them as a person. They're not just a notch on our spiritual belt. I have always been very uncomfortable talking about "Winning" people for Christ, like whoever gets the most people saved gets a set of steak knives in heaven or something. If we have genuine relationships with people, they're far more likely to be interested in what we have to say and ask about the hope we have within us. Of course, this is just in general. Obviously, if the Spirit calls on you to go talk to someone about Christ, you should follow His prompting, I just think we'd be better off as Christians if we focused on showing Christ's love instead of trying to "Win."

Lindsey Renee said...

I agree with much of what MorsIndutus wrote, the way in which any message is shared makes a big difference. Though I think people talk a little too much about how you need to be friends with the person.

Your analogy made me think of a story from my own life that illustrates more of my own feelings about it.

I'm someone who has an incredibly loud voice. When I'm happy or excited I just start getting louder and louder and louder without even realizing. Everyone in my life always has to tell me to take the volume down a notch. No matter how it's said, I always do it, because I know it's a problem. BUT how someone says it can really affect my relationship with them. If they quiet me in a way that makes it come off like they're embarrassed of me, or seriously annoyed too often I'll start unconsciously withdrawing from them. Because as much as I do want to work on this, and realize it can be a little obnoxious, it's also a part of who I am. Though my volume might be a problem, I don't think the passion and emotions that go with it are a problem. When people make me feel like it is, I get the sense that they wont really be able to love or appreciate me very well.

Yeah, I like to know when I'm getting too loud. But I appreciate more knowing that, even though I'm immeasurably loud sometimes, you still enjoy my company and appreciate my passion. I think a very similar principle applies when we share our faith.

As much as I share in our generation's hesitation to be preachy, I've had numerous conversations about my faith with many people. Sometimes I just met that person that night, but we genuinely connected, and the conversation came up as naturally as possible. I think that genuine connection, through which we both were affirming the value of the other person, played an important role. It both played a role in helping me to feel more comfortable sharing my faith, and set the tone for a better conversation.

This long illustration is my way of saying that I think we should feel out the person and the situation. Our own comfort level does play a role and should. If we don't feel it is a good moment it may be the spirit telling us it isn't. If we think we have a problem with being too cowardly, we should think about ways we could help those conversations come up more naturally. Because, truth be told, if I was that guy in line talking to my friend and you corrected me, unless you did it in a way that was friendly and funny instead of pretentious, I wouldn't remember or care about your correction. (Even later when writing). What I would remember was that I met a jerky teacher in a line. We really don't want to be giving those kinds of presentations of Christ. Because our actions do reflect back on him. While our hesitance may sometimes be a problem, it's important that we do take that seriously.

Isaiah Kallman said...

Good thoughts, everyone. I also think motive matters here. Do we want to show off our correctness, or share something with a person we connect with, as Lindsey said?

I think we can all agree the tone and intentions matter.