The reality is that for most people the path of following Jesus Christ does not begin with a well-reasoned argument or a series of propositions. Rather, the first step towards faith begins with an encounter. Perhaps it is a conversation with a coworker. It can begin with a family member who seems to radiate inner peace and always seems to have an open ear. Perhaps it is a chance encounter with the tenderness of a believer that invites a person to explore the possibility of something greater than what is presented by the world.
That is generally how things can go well, but life does not always go well.
As we can be conduits of Christ’s love, we can also turn people off by the things we say and do. We all know this, and in a certain sense we are aware of the challenges it brings. We recognize that our words can become like knives that cut and hurt more than then build up and renew. I am as guilty of this as the next person, and I found in my own life that there are a few antidotes that help.
1) Cultivate Tenderness
This is uncomfortable for a lot of people because tenderness is often associated with weakness. People prefer the distance and strength projected by sarcasm and wit. Often being tender means that we must be vulnerable, and that requires real courage.
2) Take Other People’s Perspectives
Consider what the other side thinks about what you are saying. It seems so obvious, but we are all aware of how our behavior changes in different circumstances. At its best, this awareness can make us polite and understanding. At its worst, it can lead to being duplicitous in which we have a tendency to say one thing in public, but make cutting and hurtful jokes in private.
3) Watch Out for Sarcasm
This can be particularly disheartening when people see it among Christian communities. Often, sarcasm begins with a fairly accurate presentation of reality. However, the manner in which we express ourselves seems to go beyond simply processing our environment. Instead of identifying challenges and disagreements with directness and sincerity, we veil our opinion in cleverness and jokes that tend to cut down and humiliate instead of build-up.
Sarcasm can really destroy authentic sharing. People tend to see sarcasm and the negativity it produces, and think it is best to avoid expressing anything more than the superficial features of life. If we are going to bring Christ to people, we need to project a warm, inviting personality that has the opposite effect of sarcasm.
Well, I share these thoughts, and I hope they give you something to consider as you continue your faith journey.