Aug 23, 2022
Have you ever been baited into an argument and you end up saying the wrong thing? Or perhaps you were the “baiter” saying the right thing but in the wrong way? Me too! Today I’ll share some tips I’ve learned in this area and I invite you to share your best tips with me!
Whether it’s saying something destructive in the heat of an argument or saying the right thing but in the wrong way, we have to recognize “the bait”. We also need a plan to use God’s power to speak words that are fruit rather than poison like Proverbs 18:21 says so well: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Our choice of words is so important for the sake of others but also for our own sake and for the sake of the Kingdom.
I’ve been in Christian ministry full-time and part-time for over 40 years and I have seen the consequences of taking the bait in my life and others again and again and again. It happens to everybody. We get caught up making sure that people know exactly where we stand rather than being patient and helping them want to listen to us because we show them love, respect and kindness.
It’s on the phone or face-to-face or even worse, on social media! The first tip is BE WISE ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!!!! It’s really tough to win an argument on there. Basically what we have are very loud voices screaming their opinions and hurling insults at others based on their opinions. It’s sad, it happens in the Christian world as well. I’m not sure how this benefits the kingdom. I think we can say with confidence that, really, it doesn’t.
One particular friend of mine has been the inspiration for a few of my songs. He’s part of the music industry and lives in Nashville. He was experiencing scathing fallout from “taking the bait” on social media. The impact on him personally, emotionally and professionally was significant as well as needless. He wanted to get my feedback on his next steps.
I pondered it for a little bit because deep down, I believed his opinion was valid, even correct and helpful, but I was trying to think of the possible consequences of further “conversation” aka argument. And as I started thinking about it a little bit more, it really didn’t have a lot of value because I think ultimately nobody wanted their mind changed. They only wanted the other person’s mind changed. In other words, “my way is the right way and your way is the wrong way, and that’s all there is to it.” As we discussed this a bit further, the words “don’t take the bait!” came out of my mouth,”. The power of these words stuck in my mind. And yes, a song was born.
Around that same time, conversations were taking place with another friend on the verge of losing their marriage because of a war of words that got out of hand. Because their conversation made its way to friends on social media, a number of their friendships were destroyed as well.
I think more times than not we are baited into an argument. Sometimes we are the baiter! Maybe we even baited someone else into an argument feeling that it was justified or righteous even. We’ve all seen families divided, really divided. Divided in such a way that a son or a daughter won’t even speak to their parents or the parents won’t speak to their children because they refused (or forgot) to think!; to think through their choice of words and the possible outcomes.
That’s another basic but often overlooked tip, THINK it through; what will the benefit or consequences be of the words I choose to speak. Do I really want THAT outcome?
Why is this important? Because the Bible says we will be held accountable for the words we speak. Even if we’re willing to apologize later for our poor reactions, is that really how we want to represent? Why not choose to think and respond rather than unthinkingly react. Our brains are super-computers. We can think through the scenarios and pretty well predict how things are going to turn out. Isn’t it better to prevent the damage in the first place?
The next tip is how to think it through. Here it is…Pause. Take a breathe before you respond. I recently saw a clip on Facebook about reacting vs responding from a neuroscience perspective. Evidently when you get triggered and take the bait, an electrical current goes from your brain down your spine and that’s why you react so quickly, outside of your brain space. You can stop that current by pressing pause, by taking a breath. The electrical current goes back up to your brain and now you can use your brain to think through how you want to respond.
If we stop and think about it, agreeing to disagree is a much better conclusion than the usual consequences of taking the bait, right? Like most things that go against our selfish, human nature, it’s very difficult to do, but remember God is just waiting to help us if we come to Him for help in this area. Agreeing to disagree doesn’t necessarily change our stance nor our prayers nor our action steps. It does offer more ability to live well together.
A fabulous example of this is Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill who were on the opposite sides of the political fence. They found ways to work together which was quite remarkable but, more than anything, these guys were real life friends even though they did not agree politically for the most part. After Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, Tip O’Neill was one of the first ones that Ronald Reagan allowed in to see him. So how can this be? How can a president of the republican party and the speaker of the house from the democratic party learn to work together for solutions and be real life friends? Wouldn’t that be awesome if there was more of this willingness today?
Of course, we’ve seen the consequences of taking the bait not only at the highest levels of government but, unfortunately, we even see it in churches. That’s a really sad place for that to happen. It can be fixed but it will take humility, repentance, intentional thought, and lots of practice.
That’s the next tip: PRACTICE! Being respectful while in disagreement is quite an art! It’s something that we all have to practice. Isn’t that the case with most things?
Most people know that I love the game of golf. If I want to get better at the game of golf, I have to practice the game of golf and practice doing things the correct way. Getting out and making 100 swings at the driving range won’t help me a bit if it’s 100 swings that are wrong. I have to practice doing things the right way. Think of whatever it is that you really enjoy doing and you want to get better at, it takes practice it takes repetition.
So why do we give ourselves a pass when it comes to our words and not only our words but the way we say those words? I mentioned earlier that we can say the right thing in the wrong way. Think about what I just said there. Think about tone and facial expressions and what’s really behind those expressions. I think if we look deeper, we’ll see that pride plays a big part. And the opposite of pride is humility. We have to practice humility.
No I’m not talking about rolling over and just agreeing with somebody to keep the peace. But I do know that truth spoken in love has a much better chance of winning than truth delivered in a hateful or arrogant or prideful way. We need to practice peaceful disagreeing conversations. Ultimately, what we have to show is love for each other even when we don’t agree. We should practice praying for each other and continually lifting each other up before the Lord. And then we should always ask the Lord what is the right thing to say or do or even believe?
Another tip is to be wise about your news consumption. I know many many people that are news junkies and I’ve got some opinions about that but I won’t share here :-) Here’s a challenge for you and me- let’s run the news that we listen to through the filter of Philippians 4:8-9. “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, nobel, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse”.
What are our minds wired for? Can we change our wiring through intentional, daily practice? Can we find the good in a Monday rather than the typical negative talk of the beginning of the work week? When our minds are thinking negatively on a consistent basis, it’s easier to get angry at things, opinions, and people around us. But when we practice thinking positive, godly thoughts and spend more time praying rather than complaining, I believe we can be changed from the inside out.
When I’m talking to someone whose opinion is different than mine, I find that intentionally caring for them and thinking the best of them changes the conversation in an amazing way!
The bridge of the song, Don’t Take the Bait, says this:
I know it’s hard to do the right thing,
to turn it all over to you
But help us Lord even as we sing
To do what we say we will do
So we recognize that this life is difficult. We start our day in prayer and might tell the Lord that we turn our lives over to Christ, all of our lives, including our tongue. And then we ask for help to do the very thing we just said we would do!
So who do you represent? Who do I represent? I have the Mark Alewine Music logo tattooed on my right arm. It’s 2 eighth notes tied together with a cross right in the middle. I think it’s pretty apparent who I say I represent by the tattoo on my arm but do the words that come out of my mouth and the way they come out of my mouth reflect that?
Back when I was younger in Athens Georgia, I was driving downtown and there was a guy in front of me that had a “honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker on his car. We were at a red light so I honked. He rolled his window down and flipped me off. Now that sounds kind of funny but at the same time it’s not funny. Do we represent who we say we represent?
Friends, I used to be one of the biggest hot heads that you can imagine. It was my identity and I owned it proudly. I was quick to give my opinion and bait others into an arguments or get baited into an argument, making sure that everybody knew exactly where I stood. It was often invigorating, like an athletic competition. And I didn’t mind walking off in a huff just to put an exclamation point on the conversation. I had to make sure they knew exactly how I felt about it and maybe they would go home, think about it and change their minds. That was the arrogant, prideful Mark. Every now and then, that old man wants to peak up his head and I have to put him in place.
Now, if someone asks me my opinion about a particular subject, I will give my informed opinion of that subject (not on social media however!). But I no longer wish to belittle that person‘s beliefs.
The chorus of the song says:
Keep your eyes on the prize
And your heart turn to the sky
The son of God is always ready
We need to make the choice
And be wise of the enemy’s ploys
And we will walk sure and steady
You can listen to Don’t Take the Bait on the streaming platforms or at GGSSPodcast.com Episode 10. You can also find the Facebook clip, a t-shirt and some other resources there.
Remember, don’t take the bait! And here’s some tips to do that:
I’d love to hear your best tips in in this area? You can contact me on GGSSPodcast.com
May God bless all of our steps and our lips and our actions as we go out into this world to represent Christ and the change that he’s made in our lives.