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10 Norms for Healthy Debate and Discussion

Someone once encouraged me to say Psalm 19:14 every day before my feet hit the floor in the morning. "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." What a beautiful way to frame the day - by asking God to protect the words I say and the thoughts I think.

Much of the time my words are honoring to Him and my thoughts please him. But there are times in heated discussions and in the midst of conflict that my words rush past His wisdom and my thoughts turn inward toward myself. Before I know it, my words are laced with sarcasm and accusation, my attitude is defensive and protective, and my thoughts focus on how I've been wronged and how to get my point across. Does this sound familiar? Have you been in church meetings where the same thing happened? Why does it go wrong so fast? I think it's in part because we don't take time to prepare our mouths and hearts for what's about to happen. We just assume we can handle whatever comes our way. We overestimate our ability to respond maturely under pressure.

Let me suggest starting our meetings with a little pre-work in our hearts and minds before we engage in discussions where things might be heated and opinions vary. Here is a simple yet powerful way to do that before your next gathering:

Pray Psalm 19:14 together, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and My Redeemer."

Review the 10 norms below and give people time to prepare their mouths and hearts silently for what is to come. As we give people time to prepare, they become aware of how their mouths and hearts affect the culture of the whole and will be more aware of their contribution to the group.

Mouth- Let our words be...

- Mature (not selfishly focused on myself, my opinions, my preferences)

- Objective (focused on the facts, not driven by fear, anxiety or discomfort)

- Understanding (of others' points of view)

- Truthful (given in love)

- Helpful (give a solution with a critique)

Heart- Let our attitudes be...

- Humble (putting others first, not overestimating or underestimating my importance)

- Earnest (sincere, not with ulterior motives)

- Adaptable (willing to conform and compromise)

- Restful (in Him and in His plans)

- Trusting (default to trusting others, giving them the benefit of the doubt)

As you make this part of your culture, you will see your meetings take on a different tone and people's ability to interact and respond to each other become more grace-filled and life-giving.

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