Pick your battles, choose your words.

UPDATE 4/5/16: I have decided that veganism is not for me.  However, that does not take away from the point of this blog post.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”  1 Peter 3:15-16

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”  Matthew 7:6

Today I was thinking about what happens when you take part in something that becomes a major defining factor of your life, and how people react to that.  I am a Christian, which should be apparent in every part of my life – from the way I speak, to the way I live, to the advice I give.  This brings on a lot of questions.  I’m now trying out being Vegan.  That is also going to bring on many questions.  While the two lifestyles may seem like they have nothing to do with each other, I can assure you some of the questions are the same.  The biggest common denominator is “Why?”

When you choose to believe something and act on it, you must be prepared to answer people’s questions.  You must also be prepared to witness for your belief.  However I feel there is a time and a place to present your side of the story, and a time to just “let it be.”

The Bible verses above offer some great advice for dealing with those who question you.  The first one tells us that we should live a life worthy of example, and be prepared to answer questions.  It also tells us that when we do answer questions, we must do so with “gentleness and respect.”  So many Christians (and vegans, and other folks) don’t seem to follow this advice.  They choose to preach at people and berate them, to try to make them feel “lesser,” to push their beliefs on others.  This does not work.  It leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths.  They remember nothing of what you said, merely that you were rude and awful and hateful.  They miss the point.

It’s important to present your side of the issue with knowledge, so learn all you can.  And when you present the information, don’t make people feel like they are dreadful if they don’t agree.  Some people will start to lean your way, others will not, but over time, when they see the positive effects being bestowed upon your own life and they see the happiness within you, they may start to question further, and then begin to lean toward your side.

This is why I will not blatantly present you with information about the horrible practices on animal farms.  If you see a photo of an animal who has been mistreated, you are likely to leave the blog, not continue reading.  However, if someone were to ask me to show them what I’m talking about, then I would be happy to oblige.  This is also why I will never treat someone differently because they aren’t Christian.  My job is to love others, and guide them toward Christ.  Telling them they are going to burn in the fires of hell for eternity isn’t likely going to make them want to learn more about Jesus.  Letting people know about the blessings I’ve received as a follower of Christ however, just might.

Sometimes, though, no matter what you do, someone just wants to pick a fight.  They don’t want to hear what you have to say, nor consider that there might be truth in it.  They just want to battle.  This is where the second bible verse comes in. it says “do not throw your pearls to pigs.”  This means do not waste your time preaching to people who don’t want to hear it.  This may sound counterintuitive.  After all, we are called to spread the word.  So why would the Bible tell us not to share it with some people?

The answer is this:  Because some people, no matter what you do, will twist your words and throw them back at you, they will fight you and wear you out, and all the time your words are wasted because they haven’t actually listened to a word you said.  When you meet people like this, it’s best to just walk away.  Let them know that if they would ever like to talk instead of fight, you will be available, and walk away.  It does no one any good the get beat down by someone who is unwilling to consider your rationale.  Then continue with the above mentioned path – living a life of example, and offering knowledge to those who wish to hear it.

And I’m not talking about those who already believe.  I’m talking about those who don’t or those who are on the fence, but who are willing to have a discussion and consider your side of the issue.  You may not change how they think, but at least you have planted the seed, and in time, they may change their minds.  Those who have made up their minds to believe what they believe and refuse to hear other thoughts are likely on a path of self destruction, and you don’t want to go down with the ship – that doesn’t help anyone.

When you are expecting people to listen to what you have to say, it’s important to also be willing to listen to what they have to say, too.  Be willing to understand their side of the story, but also be ready to offer a counterargument, without becoming indignant and incorrigible.

People have forgotten how to debate, and even how to have a conversation.  We need to be careful not to fall into that trap.

Whether Christian, Vegan, or anything else, do your research!  Know your stuff.  Be ready to answer questions without berating people.  Hellfire and damnation don’t work.  Knowledge does.  Be strong, be armed with knowledge, and be ready to share – but don’t be an overbearing jerk.  No one will be willing to hear you if you are.  Be who you are with a quiet, intelligent grace.  Enjoy who you are, live alongside others and love them for who they are, just don’t let them change who you are.  The only way to do that is with knowledge, fortitude, and faith.

How do you handle people who just want to bring you down for what you believe?  Comment below.

“Lord, thank you for giving me the opportunity to believe in you, and to live my life in a blessed, determined way.  Help me to find the right words when someone asks questions so that I may steer them in the right direction.”

God bless!

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