The Bible teaches that God created us to live in community and that Jesus came to reconcile us to God and one another. Public discourse and our social media feeds are filled with strong opinions from professional and amateur pundits. United Methodists in the U.S. and across the globe know the pain of conflict within their nations, churches, families, friend groups, and sometimes within themselves.
“When I cut off from another,” Gilliam notes, “I begin to create narratives about them.” Those stories often include what we believe about ourselves and God. The false narrative usually goes something like this: They are bad. We are good. God is on our side and not on theirs. This, of course, is not true. The Bible tells us that all of us are created in God’s image, are loved by God, and have God’s grace available to us.
To work past a conflict, we need to find ways to reconnect. Where we once moved away, we must now move toward.
“If I’m interacting with that other, if I’m sitting down looking at them eye-to-eye, if I’m listening to their stories,” Gilliam says, “that very interaction helps make space for the alternative narratives and for the correction in the narrative I’m telling myself about the other.”
Our diverse United Methodist churches provide wonderful opportunities for connection. Worship, Sunday School, choir, committee meetings, and the sacrament of Holy Communion bring us into contact with one another, and reinforce the true narrative that we are all children of God.
Participating in selfless acts of service is another great way to reconnect with others. Volunteering with your church or a local non-profit, “takes you out of yourself. It really puts you in a context of giving to others with no reward, just to do it because it’s the kind, Christian thing to do,” Gilliam reports. “I think that’s very healing.”
Limit television and news input
Limiting your exposure to the media is another way of resisting false narratives and anxiety. Those outlets can be “like a hose that is pumping anxiety into our homes,” Gilliam says. Now is a great time to audit your news consumption. While we want to remain informed, we might consider limiting alerts on our smartphones and computers, and how much time we spend watching our favorite news channel.
Remember, God is in control
In a culture that appears so divided, we may be tempted to put our hope on winning an election, an argument, a position. While governments and other organizations hold a great deal of power in our lives, God is ultimately in control. Going to church, reading the Bible, and spending time in other activities that re-center us are helpful.
Attend a concert. Get lost in a good book. “Find those rhythms that bring you back to your better self,” Gilliam advises.
Hit the gym
When stress and anxiety are high, many of us turn to junk food. Others stop exercising. Return to eating well. Join an exercise class. “Go to the doctor to get help starting a new lifestyle,” Gilliam suggests. God created us as complete beings. Body, mind, and spirit are all connected.
Spend time with friends
Gilliam suggests, “Be with those friends that when you’re around them you’re just a better person.” Spend good, quality time with people you love.
Listen for the invitation
If you continue to struggle, consider asking yourself, “What is the invitation here? How is God calling me to grow?” Spend some time discerning what God may be trying to show you through this season, what you might do differently in the future, and ways you might get involved to make a difference.
Take your time
“Reconciliation is a journey. It is not a one-time act,” Gilliam cautions. Our pace will differ from others. We cannot force it. “There’s nothing worse than rushing something that’s not ripe yet,” he continues, “and not heeding when the time is right.” Sometimes, we may need to accept that a relationship will never be reconciled. One of the more difficult tasks is to “honor their choice not to forgive,” Gilliam says, “and not allow it to embitter us.”
Stay in love with God
Finally, Gilliam reminds us of Bishop Rueben Job’s summary of John Wesley’s General Rules: “Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.” When we do that, we can overcome the conflict and grow from the experience.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on November 9, 2016 as “Moving on after Election Day: Tips for finding healing and peace.” The content has been edited.