What’s been keeping you up lately? If you’re like me, sometimes a comment or situation sits in my brain at night and takes control of my thoughts and attitude. I seethe. My stomach acids double and I lay there angry and half sick. Often, when I go back and take stock of the actual situation I’m fuming over, it’s pretty insignificant -something that won’t matter in a few months or, in some cases, even a few hours. So, how do we know which battles are worth fighting?
Want to see people fighting the wrong battles? Check out the comment thread on pretty much any social media post. You’ll see insignificant battles all over the place. Recently, I saw the most innocuous post. A woman had put mums out on her porch because she was excited for fall. Surely, there wouldn’t be haters for that post right? Wrong. Someone needed to point out that it’s too early to put out mums because “they only bloom once” so obviously, the excited about fall woman was a complete idiot.
There may be big problems in the world, but this commenter was about to fight one of the biggest. Early Mumming. God forbid if someone were to put out mums too early and they (only blooming once) won’t bloom for very long. I know this is a ludicrous example, but we’ve all gotten bent out of shape about something that’s not really a thing. I had to laugh because the fact that mums only bloom once doesn’t actually mean she’ll get less bloom time. It only means the blooms will happen earlier. So, the “early mumming" police officer wasn’t even right.
I’m not suggesting we should all just get along and never stand up for our beliefs. There are battles to fight, to be sure. But what are the right battles? I think there are a few questions we can ask to make sure we’re fighting the right battles.
1. Does the outcome I’m hoping for disproportionally benefit me or people like me?
I remember a particularly gross episode in recent history from my hometown. When it came time to make the boundary line for a second high school, one particular neighborhood was getting volleyed back and forth because it was comprised of more low-income families than some of the other neighborhoods. People were adement. They weren’t going to let their babies go to school with “those kids”. It got ugly. I’m sure parents felt like they were fighting for their kids. They probably couldn’t sleep worrying about the outcome. But who did it benefit? Instead of fighting the real battle of helping the kids from broken homes or making sure those children had everything they needed to succeed, they chose the small battle to just keep it out of sight. Another question we should ask is:
2. Have I taken into account enough authority before coming to my conclusion?
We can get so focused on our opinions, we refuse to do any research. No one wants to be told they're wrong and the easiest way to avoid that is to stay ignorant and opinionated.
Check out Philippians 4:3
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Social media makes it very easy to find other uninformed people who agree with us. In fact, social media algorithms feed us articles that are in agreement with what we post and talk about. In other words, we are inundated by tech with false teachers for our itching ears.
Fighting the right battles requires a change in perspective. A few nights ago, my family sat on the back porch to enjoy ice cream sundaes. My son said, “Mom. Don’t you like your sundae? You haven’t touched it.” I turned it a little to show him the side that was facing me. I had eaten exactly half of the sundae in cross section. From his point of view, it looked untouched. From mine, it was half-eaten.
Choosing our battles requires turing the sundae, so to speak. We have to look at the situation from other perspectives in order to know how to proceed.
Choosing an other’s focused perspective will almost always help us find the right battles to fight. It requires us to zoom out and see the entire picture and not just our personal preferences or those of our kids. The beautiful thing is, through this process, we grow in compassion for others.
I think it’s pretty clear that we are supposed to fight battles. Not early mumming battles, but the ones that really matter to real people. And it’s okay for those battles to keep us awake some nights. Any problem that’s ever been solved started with someone laying awake thinking about it. But before we cash in our sleep for a battle, let’s make sure it’s worthy of our time and effort.
Let’s choose to be informed and think of others before we pick up our weapons for a fight. And when we know it’s the right one, win or lose, we can look back knowing we did the right thing.