Stubborn, headstrong, bullheaded, cantankerous, ornery, hardheaded, mulish, pigheaded, and unreasonable. Those are just some of the synonyms for how my parents referred to me and my little brother, Aaron. Aaron was stubborn in a loud way, and I was stubborn in more of a quiet way. We fought a lot. I mean, what else would two incredibly stubborn boys do? So when it came to whatever our latest debate of the day, Aaron’s arrogance came in the form of him having to have you agree that he was right. He was always so convinced that his view point was correct that he literally could not sleep until you agreed with his position on a topic-no matter what topic it was. My form of being stubborn comes off as more agreeable but is probably an even worse form of pride and doggedness. I would debate with him for a while, but when I came to the conclusion that he was never going to have the clarity of mind to see that he was in error, I would just dismiss him. I would then say something spiritual sounding like, “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” Oh, he hated that, and I loved that he did!! In all of those debates/fights, the biggest thing missing was a desire to see another perspective, to see that there is more than one way of looking at things. Truly in most cases, there are many “right” ways to do things. If your initial response to that last sentence was something like, “There might be many ways of doing things, but there is only one right way!” then you might just be as stubborn as I am!
Before I go further, please know that I believe persistence is an incredible gift from God. Otherwise, we would give up at the first sign of trouble, or we wouldn’t stand for anything. We all should be proud that we are resilient and persevering, but we must be careful to ensure we are being tenacious with the right things. When I stubbornly hold to a point without being able to hear a different perspective, I don’t believe I’m being wise. Some of my greatest break throughs in my walk with Jesus have come through people who saw things differently than I did. I made a commitment over 20 years ago now that if someone brought up a perspective that was different than mine about God (or really anything else), I would take the time to research why I believe what I believe versus the other beliefs. Let me tell you, it’s uncomfortable at times. But my faith is stronger because of it. I am stronger because of it. And my witness of Jesus is stronger because of it.
Here’s a quick example. Last night, I was playing sand volleyball with a team I’ve played with since the summer of 2016. One of the young ladies on my team was talking about a great new show she found fascinating. It’s some sort of science show on Netflix with Will Smith as the host. In the middle of telling me about the show, she stopped and said, “Wait, I take that back. Don’t watch that show.” I was very confused. I asked her why she took back her recommendation, and she said it’s because it’s very science based and teaches stuff that goes against the Bible. The old Rob might have debated the point with her on how science is mostly theoretical and how people make statements based on blah, blah, blah… The old me would have felt the compulsion to defend my stance. But slightly wiser version of me today simply said, “What are you talking about? I love science! I’m not bothered by science at all! I nerd out on the stuff!” I asked her the name of the show, and you better believe I’m going to watch it. Not because I’m going to believe everything in the show, but because if my faith can’t stand up to a tv show, then what kind of faith do I have? And there was a bonus to my conversation with this young lady as well. Later, that evening she brought back up that I was a “priest”. I told her I wasn’t a priest but a pastor but that I could understand how that could be confusing. She then went on to ask if I would be willing to perform her marriage ceremony for her. I just wonder if that opportunity would have happened if my stubbornness had led the way in my conversation with her.
Sometimes, agreeing to disagree is the best choice for keeping a relationship alive. But many times for me, it becomes a cop out, the easy way out. I’ve got to do my homework. I have to understand why I believe what I believe, and I need to understand why someone else believes what they believe. Our beliefs are tied to our identity. If we don’t take the time to learn the what and why of someone’s beliefs, we aren’t really taking time for them. We’re just stubbornly pushing our agenda without caring for who they are, and they deserve more.