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A Light in the Dark

A Light in the Dark
Michele Cushatt

Calmness can lay great offenses to rest (Ecclesiastes 10:46)  

I could feel a wave of tension the minute the words left my mouth.

I hadn’t said anything wrong, nothing offensive or provoking. My colleague and I had been trying to come up with a solution to a business problem. And, simply, I’d made a suggestion she disagreed with. Although only a cell phone connected us, I could feel her disapproval.

I’ll be honest. Everything in me wanted to backpedal, to interrupt her strong and emotional response with a lawyer-esque defense. As she declared her dead-opposite position, I mentally gathered all the reasons she should consider my point of view. I wanted to explain until we reached agreement, using my powers of coercion to get us back on the same side. The mere presence of tension made me both uncomfortable and afraid. What if the sting of disagreement changed our relationship?

Besides, I really did believe my position held merit. And I knew without a doubt that I hadn’t intended any offense. I simply want to share an alternative point of view. For whatever reason, she wasn’t in a position to hear it or receive it.

Somehow, in spite of my urge to respond in kind, I decided to take a deep breath. To listen, rather than delivering a defense. To acknowledge her point of view, regardless of our different perspectives. As a result, our conversation calmed almost as quickly as it escalated. As a result, we came up with a compromised solution to our problem and moved forward. And our momentary disagreement was abandoned for new growth.  

If only all my interpersonal disagreements ended so beautifully. Unfortunately, I often allow my own emotions to rise rather than allowing the calmness to reign.

Recently I read through the book of Ecclesiastes, and in the middle of King Solomon’s deep ponderings on the meaning of life, I found seven words that stopped me in my tracks:

“Calmness can lay great offenses to rest” (Ecclesiastes 10:46) 

Whoa. How many times have I longed for more calmness in my life? And yet, how often have I allowed calmness to reign in my mind and heart and conversations?

The truth is, you and I have a choice. When a friend or spouse or child or stranger reacts with intensity and emotion, we don’t have to respond in kind. We can allow calmness to buffer our emotion and words, bringing a safe and kind tone even to necessary disagreement. In the process, offenses can be minimized or disappear altogether, like a spark that never finds dry wood to enflame.

Let your words be a blanket of calmness to those longing for the warmth of peace.

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Jackie Hill-Perry knows that a life well lived speaks volumes in a world of contradiction. As individualism becomes common and pursuing your deepest feelings and desires is perceived as heroic, denying one’s self is revolutionary. Her story of denying sexual desires to pursue true flourishing gives witness to a better way. A spoken word artist, Jackie will help us think through how self-denial can be what it was always meant to be inside our churches.