A Statement on Making Statements

Unless you live under a rock or had the blessing of being off the grid for the last 24 hours, you’ve no doubt heard of that protesters stormed the Capitol to stop the electoral votes from being cast for President-Elect Joe Biden. While they succeeded in disrupting and delaying the process for several hours, the memory and feelings about what took place will last a long, long time. I was neither under a rock nor off the grid, but I was unaware of what was happening. My teenaged son came into my office at home with a concerned look on his face and said, “Dad, you might want to see this.” My mind immediately jumped to my son’s pet Tarantula and/or his Rat Snake molting, a larger than average hairball yacked up from one of the cats, or my son’s latest doomsday-comet-colliding-with-earth scenario, all three of which are common at my house.

It was none of the above.

My son was glued to the tv, as live coverage of the event unfolded. He looked at me with wide eyes and expectation and asked, “What is wrong with people? I can’t believe this! What do you think of this, Dad?”  

I’ll come back to that …

Last night and today, the interwebs are teeming with statements – especially in the world of churches and pastors and ministries, everyone is issuing a statement.

I get it. When I was pastoring, there was enormous pressure when events like this took place both to say something and to say nothing. When nothing was said, it was wrong, and when something was said, it was at the same time too much and not enough … it all depended on what one group wanted to be said to the other group. But to be clear, the group wanting me to say something to the other group better never hear me say something to their group.

As maddeningly impossible as the expectations above were, I’ll admit that fewer things feel better than when the people who wanted you to say something share your statement with other people who wanted to hear something and they say, “Hey, my pastor said something and what they said, well isn’t it something?!?”

So the something is said, and the shares and the likes and the comments abound, and as the statement gets around, do you know what it changes?

Nothing.

Advocates and dissidents run in opposite directions with the statements, each reinforcing what they already think about their side and the other side. For every statement made, lines are drawn between church members, family members, board members, and club members. Family ties and friendships are galvanized in their pre-existing groupthink, or they’re stretched and strained to the breaking point.

So, I guess the statements do accomplish something, but nothing good.

So, am I against saying something? No, I just don’t think the way we make our statements makes much of a statement.

Back to my son …

My son asked me for a statement, and that’s where I said something. We sat down, took time, and he said something too. Then a friend and I chatted, and we didn’t see things the same way, but we each listened to the other one say something. And you know what changed in our friendship? Nothing.

I spoke with a mentor, and he said something I’d never thought of before. It was good, and my mind changed a bit.

What you said was said by you to someone who is someone to you.

After years of making statements, I’ve come to believe that for the something you say to do something good, it really needs to be said in a way that won’t get you shares, likes, or tags. That’s because it’s not being said to the faceless masses, or an avatar, or a handle, or a label. It won’t be controversial or divisive, so you really won’t get much attention. In fact, you’ll disappoint a lot of people who won’t think you’ve said anything at all.

But you did. You said a lot.

The difference is you said it to someone you’ve taken the time and done the work to know, respect, appreciate, even love; I didn’t say understand or agree with, but a person who is not “them” or “other.”

And what you said was said by you to someone who is someone to you.

This is not a popular way to make a statement, but I think it’s the kind of statement-making that will truly change the world.

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