During this time of year, I’m very aware of people’s postures. Have you ever noticed that there is a certain way that people in Minnesota walk during the winter? When the temperature drops, the sidewalks become slick and the wind comes up, we adopt a kind of a “duck walk.” Our steps shorten, and we work hard to keep our center of gravity directly over our feet. This becomes a challenge when we also have to lean forward, crouching slightly, to keep the cold, northwest wind out of our faces.
There are other times that we adopt different postures.
- Often, when people pray, they bow their heads and fold their hands together. Or, they might look up, and extend their arms towards the heavens.
- When talking with children, we might crouch down, or bend to one knee in order to make eye contact.
- When becoming defensive or angry, someone might lean back, fold their arms and you can watch the tension become real in their facial expressions.
As I’ve observed the conversations going on throughout our society, I worry about the posture that we assume. When it comes to issues of politics, of global issues, terrorism, other religious faiths and other hot button issues, more often than not I see those participating in the conversations assuming a defensive, or sometimes even an aggressive posture. This morning in the news I watched a politician lean into the podium, waving her arms and shaking her fist, tearing into one our presidential candidates with anger…even hatred. And as the rhetoric turned more nasty, the crowds cheered louder and louder.
I believe that our postures become contagious. As we see others (especially our leaders) treat each other with disrespect and disdain, it becomes the norm for the rest of us. And so we hear stories of kids disrespecting (even assaulting?) teachers…we hear stories of road rage…we hear stories of minor disagreements erupting into angry conflicts.
The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians that he begs us “…to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (eph. 4: 1b-3)
I would urge us to be aware of our posture. And when we find our emotions rising, let’s resist the urge to assume a posture of defensiveness or anger. I believe our God calls us to assume a different kind of posture: Listening. Let us lean forward, toward one another. Let’s maintain eye contact. Let’s smile and nod. Let’s listen to the other’s words, and to the heart behind those words. And even when we disagree, let’s begin our sentences with the words “I understand.”
Note: This article was originally printed in the Owatonna People’s Press; January 23, 2016