Talking Torah Part 3: How Not To Bully Others By Your Actions
You know how your friends and family sometimes seem to get when you have tried to talk to them about the Torah? Some may be receptive while others may refuse to talk about the subject or even become hostile, showing a side you would never have thought existed. It doesn’t always have to be that way, if you’ve taken them into consideration and checked your attitude, then it may have something to do with actions.
We do not recommend having deep discussions relating to the Torah until one has a firm foundation and understanding of it. For those who decide to engage in such discussions, we strongly urge you to read the previous two installments of this blog series as each one builds upon the one before it. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of this series for you to review.
As mentioned last time, there are three things about yourself you need to control and make sure they come from a place of love.
We have already covered attitude previously in this series; this time we are going to examine actions. If you’ve checked your attitude and are coming across in love, exhibiting the fruits of the spirit, then maybe there is something in your actions that needs checked.
Are your conversations remaining peaceful and good discussions, or are people still taking offense and getting defensive when you discuss things with them? If so, have you checked your attitude and taken them into consideration as discussed in our previous blog posts? After reviewing all of that and people still seem to be put off by conversations with you on a fairly regular basis, then your actions may be the cause; it’s possible that your intentions are good, but you are unintentionally bullying others with your actions.
What we mean by actions isn’t necessarily physical, as in invading their personal space in any way. It’s possible they are watching you and seeing some amount of hypocrisy in your life; your actions are not matching your words. You could be talking about love, but when you communicate you are forceful or too blunt in how you speak to them. The way in which you are communicating with them may be perceived as hostile or aggressive.
There are lots of topics in Torah that are divisive and sometimes these topics cause division within the Hebrew Roots movement. These same topics may even more issues when discussed with friends and family not in Hebrew Roots. Examples of such topics include the calendar, Christmas and Easter, or what name a person is using for YHWH (God) and Yeshua (Jesus). These are topics we strongly recommend not discussing with others until you have a very firm foundation based upon historically accurate sources and Scriptural understanding. Even then, these can be topics that cause division simply because of a difference of opinion because people tend to have very strong feelings about such things. Those strong feelings are what can lead to cycle of hostility we described earlier.
Actions that you need to consider are your body language, your tone of voice, volume of voice, and how you are projecting your emotions. We are not experts, by any means, so here are a few links for you to review to help learn about your body language and the body language of others. These should help you in your interactions with others as you become more mindful of what your body is communicating as well as how they are responding.
All of the above is important, but perhaps the most important actions we take concern our approach, or how we discuss things. For example, if someone is telling you about their plans for Christmas, and then ask what yours are, you shouldn’t respond with:
“We don’t have any plans for Christmas because we no longer celebrate those pagan holidays.”
Such a statement can do a few things. First it can make it seem like you are too good for them and are putting them below you, arrogance. Second it is disrespecting them; they were trying to share their joy with you but instead you’ve disregarded their joy and now said that what they do is pagan; almost accusing them of being pagan which has the connotation of something bad or evil to many people. Essentially you’ve just accused them of doing bad things and maybe even being evil depending on how they take it. Finally, you have shared far too much for the context of the scenario. You could have simply said that you no longer celebrate Christmas, and left it there.
If they cared enough to know more, they would ask why or why not. At that point you could give them a bit more information as long as you didn’t take the same tone the above statement implies. When we give people unwanted information it not only falls on deaf ears, but it can actually begin to build a wall between us and those we are speaking with. You may earn the reputation of being hyper-religious; they may start to close themselves off to future discussions with you because of it.
The Dangers of Oversharing
Sharing too much is easy to do and can be one of the most detrimental things to a discussion. When you share too much it’s likely you have not taken the other person’s feelings, intent, and their personal spiritual walk into consideration. You have now started to become an aggressor with an agenda to tell them how wrong they are in what they know.
Sharing too much can actually derail someone in their walk, or at least provide them a detour from where they should be going. While testing everything is good and should be done, there is an aspect of testing things at the right time that comes into play. To use an example from mainstream Christianity, you wouldn’t take someone who has just learned about Jesus and then dump them into a deep study about spiritual warfare and make them a “prayer warrior”.
It’s not that those things are bad, but they may not be ready for it. They may become consumed by the topic and miss out on developing a firm foundation in the Word and gaining a deeper understanding of grace, salvation, and faith. In the same way, you shouldn’t start a conversation with someone telling them what they believe is wrong or jump into the deeper concepts found in the Torah including topics like the calendar and “the name”. You should talk about the areas you already agree on such as who the Messiah is, how we do all have grace, how salvation works, and who we are as being grafted into Israel. As Paul alluded to, they need the milk before we should give them the meat. When we overshare, we tend to start giving the meat long before they’re ready.
Another thing oversharing can do is turn someone off from wanting to discuss things with you because they don’t want to listen for as long as you’ll speak. If someone asks a simple question about a topic (let’s say if 2+2 =4), and you go into a 10 minute explanation regarding the mechanics of the mathematics behind it and number theory, it’s unlikely they will want to ask you about something even more important. Put simply, oversharing may occur out of a desire to be helpful but it fails to take the person into account; it becomes all about you and your knowledge.
In conclusion, communicating the Torah without pushing away friends and family is about you and your actions just as much as good meal requires a good cook with knowledge and experience on how to prepare it.
You may have the right attitude going into a conversation but when your actions (body language, tone, amount of sharing, etc.) are wrong, things are likely to go awry. Think about times this may have happened to you and look for an opportunity to learn something about how you were communicating a message by your actions and not just words. If things haven’t gone well with someone before, it’s okay; it may not be too late to salvage the relationship. You may just need to change how you interact with the person and learn what pitfalls to avoid in conversations.
And you know what? That’s a good thing because it helps you to grow and be a brighter light to the world.
It’s okay if you aren’t perfect, no one is and everyone makes mistakes. It’s what you take from those mistakes that matters. Do you find yourself in a repeating cycle of conversations gone bad? Then this is an opportunity to examine things to see if you’re taking the other person into consideration first, if your attitude remains one of love, and if your actions reflect both of those. While ultimately it’s about that person’s relationship with the Father; our actions are to be a light pointing them to the Father and not away.
When you find yourself in a conversation starting to drift away from being loving, take a deep breath and go back to common ground, love of the Father and the Word because where there is love there is peace.