To unfollow, or not to unfollow?

The most tempting button on Facebook – for me, anyway – isn’t the trusty thumbs-up, a sign of celebration and solidarity. In this election cycle, in this climate of increasingly divisive and belittling rhetoric, my less-dominant hand often has to restrain my clicking hand from lunging for the “unfollow” option.

While the majority of my Facebook friends share my political and theological leanings, I know and care about a lot of people – highly intelligent, deeply compassionate people – who think differently than I do. It would be easy enough to boot their impassioned statuses and their links to opinion pieces out of my newsfeed. I wouldn’t be going so far as to unfriend them, after all. They’d never know they hadn’t made the cut, so I wouldn’t be hurting their feelings. I could then go about my day with fewer inclinations to comfort-eat…and without the occasional pause to listen for apocalyptic hoof beats.

But the unwillingness to consider others’ points of view is how we devolved into divisiveness and belittlement, isn’t it?

It’s the age-old myth of scarcity at work, in this case with regards to airtime. If I don’t shout the loudest, I won’t get the chance to share my side. I can’t afford to use my debate platform to ask clarifying questions. I’ve got to spend it all on advocacy.

Truth be told, those on the opposite end of the spectrum are unlikely to change my approach to the issues with their Facebook activity. It would be arrogant of me to think I would have any more success persuading them. But I believe I have a responsibility to try to understand why others feel the way they do, to note how policy intersects with the lived reality of another human being. Because when I get the history, the reasoning, the pastoral care pieces behind the position – and when I share my own hopes and fears – I can still be in relationship with someone who comes at complicated matters from a different angle. (The exception here is when the way someone speaks sends me into a mental health spiral. Then self-care does need to kick in, so that I can tend to the parts of my soul that allow me to be in community with those who aren’t abusive.) Relationship leaves the door open for collaboration, or at least for compromise, in view of the common good. Even if we can’t work together, we still retain the ability to see one another as children of God.

If I can’t do something so simple as read a status update that challenges me, then I really should be listening for hoof beats…and it will be my need to be right hastening them.

Creative Commons image “Conversation pit” by refreshment_66 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Being a good teammate

Creative Commons "Team" by Dawn (Willis) Manser licensed under CC 2.0.
Creative Commons “Team” by Dawn (Willis) Manser is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As the NCAA tournament has played out the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time reflecting on what makes a good teammate. Ministry is a vocation that can lend itself to Lone Rangerdom, but it bears the longest-lasting fruit when it is done collaboratively. (Hey, even God needs three aspects working together to get the job done.) Whether you are part of a big staff or a solo pastor who recruits laypeople for some of the tasks covered by ordained ministers in larger churches, the following observations apply.

Good teammates:

  • Cooperate. This seems obvious, but it doesn’t always happen.
  • Coordinate. The most effective ministry requires some measure of advance planning – together – not just in our individual areas of responsibility.
  • Communicate. Learning teammates’ verbal and non-verbal cues cuts down on costly misunderstandings and allows the team to roll more easily with the unexpected.
  • Practice and play hard. The whole team looks good when everyone has prepared. On the other hand, one person’s lack of preparedness can make the whole team look like it hasn’t taken the task at hand seriously.
  • Share credit. Spread the word about how others contributed to a good outcome. Your teammates will become more deeply invested in your relationship and in your shared mission.
  • Encourage one another. We all get down. And when we get down, we rarely do our best ministry.
  • Know how and when to confront one another… Teams run into personality conflicts and differences of opinion. Don’t let them fester.
  • …but also maintain a unified front. Nothing tears a team apart faster than teammates talking behind one another’s backs.

Being a teammate is about working with others toward a common goal and making those around us better. And there are few things as exhilarating and productive as being part of a team that has really gelled.