3 Suggestions on How to Be Good To One Another in the Wake of a Bitter Election

Taking a look at my Facebook and Twitter feed this morning has triggered the pastoral response in me. So many people are overjoyed. So many people are in obvious pain. I feel like the smart thing to do before I get to the “horse-race” and political analysis stuff that I love so much (I really do love it. I know it’s weird but I do.), is to try and offer some humble suggestions about how to be good to one another in the wake of a bitter election.

01 Rise Above
It takes two to tango. Don’t swing at bad pitches when your friends from the other side (whichever side), bait you on social media or even in person. You can set the tone for your interactions by rising above anything meant to sew seeds of discord. You have to rise above it. If they came to fight, don’t engage. One of the best proactive things you can do is put up a friendly Facebook status and attempt to approach the other side with grace and humility. Make the first move. Celebrate passion and the fact that people really care about our common life and our society, but don’t get sucked into an argument.

I posted this on my Facebook status. I worked hard on the language and I mean every single word:

“To my friends on the political right just wanted to say that I love you and I celebrate your passion and heart. I know you are stinging a bit this morning so I’m praying for you and hoping that the feeling goes away soon. All shall be well & not because of politicians or nations. For my friends on the political left. I love you and I’m sincerely glad you had a good night last night. I celebrate your passion and heart as well. Please don’t rub anyone’s nose in their defeat. You can gloat in private of course, but as good as the election results feel to you is how bad it feels to them. Everyone please try and keep your cool on Facebook today. Be good to one another. Be kind. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph 4:2”

02 Write / Delete
If you are ticked about the election and are tempted to write a diatribe to express your frustrations, you should write it. Then you should delete it. It will be good to get it out, but you shouldn’t let other people see it – especially not everyone who is friends with you on Facebook. I promise you that it will only make things worse, and the end it will not make you feel better to put it out there.

I’m reading things from friends on Facebook right now that are evidence of a lot of pain. Parents are recommending everything from telling your children they owe the federal government $51,000 a piece, to folks saying this was America’s last chance – better buy canned goods and plant a garden because it’s all going to hell from here. (There are some crazy things from the winning side to – Messiah complexes to be sure). It’s good to express the pain. But posting your Dennis Miller rant will only do two things.

  • First, it will allow you to wallow in despair and frustration with other despairing and frustrated people. It’s not healthy. It feeds on itself and will only serve to magnify the pain and trap you in a cycle of anger and cynicism.
  • Second, you will hurt those you love. It’s a terrible thing to transmit your pain to those around you, those you love, and your friends on Facebook and Twitter. I spoke with a woman today whose husband has been ranting and raving since last night without a break. He’s in so much pain about this election and he is forcing his pain down her throat right now. It’s not fair. Not every emotion you have is helpful to put out there in social space. Have your response. Express your feelings in words if necessary. Then hit delete & go do something relaxing.

03 Pray For Those Who Persecute You
Words are powerful things. They can call into being all manner of things. Many of those who supported Romney are hurting today, and many of them will lash out. Many of those who supported Obama will be doing some gloating, responding to the laments from their friends on the right, or yelling “scoreboard” all day. Both sides will be tempted to lock and load and engage the darkness. Whatever response you encounter – healthy or unhealthy – our first response should be to pray for those who we feel are attacking or slighting us. Pray first, before you engage. Pray for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. If you can’t respond from those virtues, keep praying. Then return to numbers 01 and 02.

I’m working a couple of articles with analysis and response to last night’s election results. Keep checking back to Paperback Theology and I’ll put them up when they are finished. Or follow me on Twitter: @Tim_Suttle

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  • Thanks, Tim–will share… Here’s my Facebook post from this morning:

    “Look for the best in every person and every situation.” I seem to remember Zig Ziglar saying that, but I’m unable to confirm the source at the moment. In any event, I will be listening to Rush Limbaugh today to see if there is any nuance of difference in his reaction to Obama’s victory this time around. Four years ago, he led a chorus of the opposition with, “I Hope He Fails!” While I don’t expect a huge change in his explicit rhetoric, I think we would be better off as a nation if we disagreed more agreeably and were able to wish one another great success. So, let’s stand up for what we believe in, but let’s not imagine that we are infallible or that the opposition is as evil we may have portrayed them during this campaign. For the most part, we succeed or fail together. Let us begin again!

    [Listening to Rush Limbaugh as I type — he insists that he is right and the voters are crazy, but I think he is a bit more subdued than he was 4 years ago (listening ‘between the lines’, so to speak).]

  • Claude

    Too late. I already posted a diatribe on the Election Day 2012 thread, with no regrets. Because we have a big problem: half the country is living in an alternate reality from the other half. But only one has been vindicated .

    Still, out of compassion, I encourage conservatives to read the following. It will give you insight into your predicament:

    “How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File”
    by Conor Friedersdorf


  • Tim, these are very necessary words. I appreciate that you have taken the time to put them out here. I’ve seen enough posts on FB from my conservative friends to understand that they’re in a world of hurt right now over the Presidential election results. In a lot of state races, on the other hand, they didn’t do so badly. Kansas, for instance, is solidly red with very few exceptions.

    I guess what we’re going to discover in the next few days or weeks is where each individual’s loyalty really is – if they say they’re Christians, we’ll know if they’re serious by the tenor of their postings. Struggling with emotions of anger and loss, bitterness or despair, can do strange things to the words we use. Expressing these emotions, and then admitting to being conflicted about them, is probably a pretty healthy way to begin healing. Avoiding their utterance, and just keeping silence, is probably an even healthier way. However each of us deals with our responses will set the tone for the next day, and the next. I’d prefer to begin with a tone of hope and optimism.

  • scott stone

    Usually when I’m not sure what to say I say nothing at all. My reflexive position is to say let them choke on quail (I’m sure you get my point.) But I’ll spend some time contemplating this election and then try and make a thoughtful respectful response.
    Since you were digging the Nate Silver stats, here is an interesting one I was pouring over this morning. Obama is the first president in history to win a second term and not enlarge his map. He is the first president who got less of the popular vote and less electoral college votes in his second election.
    One other thing. Just when I thought the liberal media couldn’t sink any lower I was proven wrong. Chris Matthews last night during the election: “I’m so glad we had that storm last week.” Time to put to bed the meme that it is the conservatives who are the ones that are heartless.
    Or Savannah Guthrie speaking about hurricane Sandy: “And here was a moment, handed to him seemingly from above.” Yeah God gave us the hurricane so Obama could look presidential. No, the MSM aren’t biased. Couldn’t be.
    Yes I know Romney was outclassed in the campaign and Obama beat him, but when you’ve a=got a press core on your side that’s a big help. Does any one think that if a Republican would have been running for a second term with U6 numbers at 15% and a GDP below 2%, the press wouldn’t have been calling for his head?

  • Tim Suttle

    Hey Scott, Those are interesting stats (not enlarging the map/fewer votes electoral and popular this time than last time). I think the difference has much more to do with the first election being extraordinary (first black president, financial crisis, etc.) than some sort of unprecedented anomaly. The reason it’s the first time is because the initial election was a big blowout. Republicans essentially flipped 2 traditionally Republican states, Indiana, and North Carolina – other than that it was pretty close to last time.

    I only watched a little of MSNBC and very late. I thought Matthews was abysmal. Hardly agreed with anything he said. However, I don’t really call MSNBC part of the main stream media. The Network proper (NBC) is, but not them. I actually have a completely different approach. Still writing it though… out soon.

    • scott stone

      I agree about Matthews but Guthrie is a rising star. MSNBC or NBC, what’s the difference. There has to be some guilt by association. There certainly is tacit approval from NBC as to what goes on over at the red headed step child station.

  • scott stone

    When something happens for the very first time in the history of our nation, isn’t that what you would call an “unprecedented anomaly?” And when you say pretty close to last time, you are correct: Minus 10,000,000 votes for Obama.

  • Claude

    Obama is the first president in history to win a second term and not enlarge his map.

    FDR won his second term with fewer electoral votes than the first.

    • scott stone

      Nope 1932 he won 472 electoral votes. 1936 he won 523

      • Claude

        That liberal rag The New York Times led me astray. It was between FDR’s second (1936: 523) and third (1940: 449) terms.

        Oh well. I give them slack after Silver’s sterling performance.

  • Tim, thank you so much for this post. God placed a similar idea on my heart and mind this morning. I was led to write a post on my blog about what I feel called to do as a Christian in the “aftermath” of the elections. I’d be honored if you’d have the time to take a look at it! http://wp.me/p2OTBv-1r

    God Bless!