Disagreement without toxicity

I’m guessing hearing devices may be entering my life in the not too distant future.  I don’t really dread or fear it if that’s what happens. I simply find myself increasingly frustrated at being in restaurants or stadia or nearly any large group of people gathered, and missing pieces of conversation with folks because I can’t make out what they’re saying.  Maybe no one else experiences this, but I sometimes nod and smile as if I’ve heard every detail and inside am hoping against hope I didn’t just promise something I can’t deliver, nod and smile about something that is sad and hurtful, or laugh at a comment that others find funny that if I realized what was said, I might choose a different response.  I’m wondering if they make tri-audial enhancers, not unlike tri-focal glasses. It would make sense to me if they do, because I don’t really need the same amount of hearing help in my office, or when I’m listening to the choir, or when I’m wanting to ignore something someone is saying that I don’t want to hear or attend to doing or answering. I guess hearing devices are probably not the answer to that last one.

It was shared in our staff meeting yesterday that companies across the United States are dealing with more toxicity in the workplace environment than ever before because of divisive conversations happening.  These are not primarily conversations around work-related issues and disagreement around how things are or are not being done. Rather they are non-work-related conversations relating to politics. The result of the increasing toxicity in these environments are causing companies to lose employees, efficient work time, and finally having a negative effect on the bottom-line to an estimated point of $223 billion.  “The level of toxicity in the workplace is at an all-time high,” says John Taylor, Jr., Pres. And Chief Exec. Officer for the Society for Human Resources Management, adding that the impeachment investigations are dividing employees all over the country regardless of any employer rules about discussing politics in the office. “You don’t think employees are talking about impeachment?” he asked rhetorically, “Well, they are.”

Wait a minute, you might be thinking, why would the pastors and staff at a church be talking about toxicity in the workplace?  Are we bored with issues of faith? Have we completed all our tasks that it takes to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” – our denominational mission statement.  Have we reached the pinnacle of Loving God, Living Like Jesus, and Serving the World – our Grace Mission statement? Ummmm, not so much for any of that. Then what’s the deal with people whose lives are spent in full-time ministry and service?  Don’t we all love Jesus? Absolutely. Don’t we all want to do our best to love and serve God and our neighbor? Without question. But are we all are human? Wait, what???? We all are particular and peculiar, some more than others snort, human beings with life journeys, and unique backgrounds, and foundations that differ geographically and educationally and familyistically (new word, you’re welcome) –  from only children to multiple sibs.; from having children and grandchildren to not; divorced, married, never-married; under age 50 and well, all the other ages; multiple first languages and ethnic backgrounds; and finally, vastly different understandings of fashion! I didn’t say better or worse, I simply said different. snort And along with all of that, we also have unique and even quite different political understandings about all kinds of issues.  I know, right? Who knew?

Is the answer to pretend we don’t?  Good Christian people never disagree . . . until we get to the parking lot?  Is the answer to come into our offices at Grace and simply cut loose with our passionate opinions regardless of how anyone else feels – darn those torpedoes, full speed ahead?  Or is there another way to be both human and truthful to ourselves AND compassionate, kind, and sensitive to our shared need for community and work in faith and trust? Rhetorical question?  Absolutely. And here’s the deal, I think that goes for work, and home, and shopping areas, and waiting rooms, and restaurants – even though in a couple of those places I probably couldn’t hear you anyway.  Not everyone is going to choose that rhetorical-question-second-way. The question is whether someone else’s behavior is going to define our own, regardless of how angry we may get at how wrong we may believe they are.

The discussion we had as staff and clergy was whether we simply decide totally to never allow those discussions in our workplace, and/or, to figure out if we can model and witness the different way – a way of hospitality, respect, compassion, and kindness.  You must guess how I feel . . . if we can’t find a way to do that in the faith community, then we have truly lost our way. And have we? That question is NOT rhetorical for me.

I sincerely want to hear well – not simply physically, also spiritually and emotionally.  I want to hear without deciding someone is wrong simply because I disagree with their position, and without then seeking to get them to accept their “wrongness” in the face and with the voice of my “rightness”. Is that possible?  I want folks, including me, to come together around everyone’s value as a child of God first, and from that place be able to hold different opinions without seeking to question someone’s right to be alive, or to seek to shame them for who they are.

I will be getting my hearing tested fairly soon.  It makes me nervous – did I hear the tone? Did I not hear the tone and only think I did?  On the whole I believe audiologists are very nice and gifted people, I only wonder if they can tell when some of us hear things that are not always there . . . I’m thinking that’s probably a whole other blog for a whole other day.

Here’s (snort couldn’t resist), to a minute or two of grace for you this day!