“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
– Proverbs 17:27 (ESV)
With Thanksgiving this week, I am seeing articles and hearing reports unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Families are dividing, disowning, and disinviting over political differences. Ridiculous!
Before we take a long-overdue visit to the poetry corner, I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts in hopes of helping some of you in this unfortunate group find your way back to sanity.
First, the family
Please recognize that the family is the cornerstone of an orderly society. Despite its flawed execution, the family is still the best environment for rearing and sustaining emotionally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually healthy people. On numerous occasions, we have discussed that we human beings have an enemy with many aliases. He is variously known as the deceiver, the father of lies, the accuser, the devil. His mission is to steal, kill, and destroy — and one of his favorite targets is the family. He will use any opportunity to divide and conquer. Could you be playing into his hands?
If you and your family members don’t share the same political views, I suggest you (ahem) table them for the greater good of family unity.
Does this make sense?
Further, only a fool would allow a politician of either party to alienate him from his own family. Look at it this way: The number of people Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can affect personally — favorably or unfavorably — is vanishingly small in a nation of 320 million people. What did either candidate ever to to you or for you, that you would prefer him or her over your own kin?
Everything else at this point is opinion and speculation. I hope this isn’t news to you, but you can choose your thoughts. And I submit to you that turning your back on your loved ones — loved ones! — is a sign of fear and self-absorption. Let us choose instead to focus on the finer qualities of our family members and friends and let us disown and disinvite the intrusive and uncharitable thoughts about those with whom we differ.
Have you tried Kipling?
Here is a classic poem from Rudyard Kipling that seems strangely apt for our times.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Take a look at how much of what Kipling recommends is within our power to choose it. And note the rewards of being noble — especially when we aren’t afforded the same treatment by others. I am recommending that you and I resolve to behave like Christian gentlemen no matter what kind of reception we get. I’m not promising it will be easy, but you’ll stand out for the best reasons.
Elsewhere, I have written that often the greatest obstacle to our success lies not in our circumstances, but between our ears. This is another such occasion.
Please refer again to the Proverb at the top of this post. Note the verb “restrains.” You do want to be a man of knowledge, don’t you? Restrain your words, then. And maintain a cool spirit. Then you’ll be able to discuss nearly any topic without losing precious relationships. Oh, and one more thing: If you’re sure you’re right, you don’t need to yell.
Happy, happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Remember your relatives are meant to be a blessing and a treasure, so find a way to enjoy them.
So how about you? How are you choosing to keep a cool spirit this Thanksgiving? Add your comments below.
P.S. If you’re sweating making a good impression at the Thanksgiving table because you’ve forgotten your table manners, check out this post for the quick and dirty on keeping it clean.