When Does Being Polite Become Agreement?

Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve been quiet about the political campaign for president.  Well, you still won’t get my political views here, but I DO want to talk about a related issue.

My mother taught me that you don’t discuss certain topics in mixed company:  religion, politics, controversial issues such as abortion, the death penalty, etc.  Aside from the fact that some would argue it’s just not polite, I think it’s pointless:  most people’s views are so deeply entrenched that they’re just not going to change because of a “rousing” discussion about the issues.  

With the anonymous worldwide web, people feel even more comfortable forcing their views on others as they send e-mails and other online materials trying to convince you of their opinions.  Often, people assume they are “preaching to the choir” when they send such e-mails.  I find it funny (strange, not ha-ha) that people assume they’re preaching to ME, when I am diligently silent on the topic of politics in all public forums.

When someone sends me an e-mail regarding political or other topics I don’t wish to discuss, I delete them without reading anything but the subject line (or first few lines until I learn what the topic is).  When someone comments to me in person, I pause without responding and then change the subject.  You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m entitled to not BE FORCED to pollute my mind with your views.  I see this the same way as I do having the right to turn off the TV when I see something I don’t want to watch [or like you have the right to stop reading this blog!  😉  ]  I certainly don’t mind discussions about the issues, but I would like to be involved in deciding who I talk to, about what, where the conversation takes place and when.  Most of the people about whom I’m complaining are practically strangers to me.

Which brings me to my question:  at what point do my responses stop being polite avoidance and start being tacit agreement of the person’s agenda? There is one woman who regularly sends me political e-mails.   Her latest specifically said, “I’m sorry to be preaching to the choir so much, but you can add this to your quiver of arrows when you encounter someone who doesn’t agree with you.”  I deleted the e-mail, but what I really wanted to do is send her an e-mail saying something along the lines of, “What makes you assume I’m in your choir?!” 

A few years ago, I had a very dear friend who was, unfortunately, a racist.   He was entitled to his opinion, but he took every opportunity to tell me his opinion — in graphic and offensive terms.  Out of politeness, I did not respond and simply changed the subject.  One day I became convicted with the need to say something to stop the verbal onslaught I had to endure — I saw it as my responsibility to not tacitly agree with him by refusing to disagree with him.  The next time he made a racist statement, I politely said, “You’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t agree with what, in my opinion, are racist comments.  I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t share such opinions with me again.”  No anger, no ire, no end of the friendship or even the slightest discourtesy.  He thought about it a second, promptly changed the subject and never revisted it again.  Ever.  I know I was blessed that my friend responded in such a manner (showing he was polite as well).  Many people would go ballistic in response.

So, I’m back to my quandry:  at what point, if any, do I have the right to politely ask others to stop bludgeoning me with their opinions via e-mail and in person about politics and other controversial issues?  Any ideas would be welcome.  Absent wise counsel from my readers, I will continue on with my personal struggle over this one.

Incidentally, apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church, a megachurch in Washington, D.C., has often talked about this issue.  His congregation is split pretty equally between the two major political parties and most of the members of his church work on the Hill.  He believes his job is to point people to Christ and, if he does that, his congregants will pray and do their best to make godly decisions regardless of whether they are “red” or “blue”.   That’s one statement I don’t mind saying, “I couldn’t possibly agree more!” 

So, at what point does being polite become tacit agreement?  I’d appreciate your help in determining the difference.



Don’t forget to send your name and mailing address to seewhykinsman@yahoo.com to register for Sandra Byrd’s wonderful book Bon Appetit. TWO winners will be drawn at random this Friday, October 24th. If you send me a recipe for French food, I’ll DOUBLE your chances of winning by entering your name twice in the drawing and I’ll post all the recipes at the end of the week. Good luck!


1 Comment »

  1. Joanne said

    Knowing you (Connie) and how diplomatic you are, I am sorry for your “quandry”. Since I am an opinionated person I will first apologize to you if I have ever made you uncomfortable with my points of view. In the future, please call me on it so I do not further bother you with such things. I mean this in a nice way as you know I can take it.

    Second, I somewhat disagree with your keeping quiet. Sometimes in order to be “heard” you have to say something. Some people will not get the fact that your silence on a subject does not mean you agree…you prefer not to say anything. In that case, you continue to be a sounding board for their rhetoric. A position you would not probably want.

    Take a stand girl!! You should NOT suffer in silence!

    By the way, miss you tons!

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