Know when to fold em’.  If you’re like me, reading the headline for this article immediately made you think of the classic Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”.  I’ve always been a classic to heavy rock listener.  But I also grew up in a time when if a song was good, it would get played on the radio no matter the format of the station.  The Gambler was one of those songs.

The song tells the story of a young poker player getting advice from a seasoned veteran of the game.  The advice given to the young gambler is something that we as Christians can take to heart.  The first two lines of the song’s chorus offer a good guide for our interactions with others.  Let’s take a look at those lines and see what wisdom we can glean from them:

You’ve got to know when to hold em’

Know when to fold em’

Know when to walk away

Know when to run

Know When To Hold Em’

Most of the conversations we engage in are keepers. We want to stay engaged as much as possible, even if we are getting pushback.  Remember, simply being disagreed with is not a reason to disengage.  I’ve seen may Christians back off as soon as they receive pushback.  This is a mistake.  We shouldn’t think that all we have to do is drop one line and the encounter is done.  Conversations are back and forth affairs.  We need to give the other person a chance to respond to our arguments. 

Know When To Fold Em'

Also, don’t disengage and claim persecution because people are defending their positions, and it happens to oppose yours.  Christians can sometimes project a victim mentality.   Defend your position with grace and passion.  While we must be kind, it doesn’t mean we have to be a doormat either.  As long as the conversation is remaining civil, don’t be afraid to match the energy and spirit of your conversation partner.  

Know When To Fold Em’

So where’s the line?  When do you say, “Enough is Enough”?  I have a few simple guidelines I use to tell me when it’s time to disengage.

If the other person is consistently using foul language, I’m out. And if this is happening on my page, you will get blocked.  I’ll give a warning before I block.  Sometimes people get excited and make mistakes.  I get it.  And social media lends itself to less civil conversations.  But if I’ve warned the person and they persist in the cursing, I’m done.  

Know When To Fold Em'

Abusive language and personal attacks.  I’m interested in having good, quality conversation.  I will go after ideas that I don’t find sound, and I expect that my conversation partner will do the same. But I don’t get personal, and I won’t take arguments against my position personally.  I people are attacking me on a personal level, I will disengage.  I’m ashamed to say I have fallen into that trap myself, and it never makes me feel good.  Winning an argument doesn’t do me any good if my behavior doesn’t reflect Christ.  If I sense things going down a path that will lead to my losing my composure, I will get out.  

Know When To Walk Away

As I stated above, I don’t just walk away from conversations at the first sign of trouble.  If I see one of the warning signs above, I’m going to give the other person a chance to remain in the conversation.  Often, I will give them multiple opportunities.  I don’t want to leave.  That’s not in my make-up.  I want to stay engaged.  

I said that social media lends itself to bringing out the worst in people, and I still hold to this.  People say things online that they would never say to a person standing right in front of them.  The filters come off when we’re hiding behind a keyboard and a screen.  Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder to get the conversation back to a productive engagement.  Our goal should be to remain engaged as much as possible.

Know When To Run

There are situations that go beyond simple cursing or personal attacks.  You will most likely know them when you see them.  Threats of physical violence against you or your family shouldn’t be taken lightly.  I’ve had both of those situations happen.  This calls for immediate disengagement and blocking.  You need to keep yourself and your family safe. There are people that are quite frankly mentally ill.  Engaging with them can be dangerous. Err on the side of caution. 

Know When To Fold Em'

There are people that are also simply out to pick a fight.  I’ve stopped following some of the discussion pages I used to simply because the conversations between atheists and Christians have deteriorated into name calling and personal attacks.  I’d like to tell you it’s only the atheists that do this, but honestly the Christians are just as bad.  If there is little hope for a meaningful conversation, don’t spend your valuable time there.  Recognize the warning signs and get out. 

An Ace You Can Keep

I looked in on one discussion page I used to follow a few days ago. There were very few conversations going on.   Someone in the group was lamenting this fact.  Another member responded to him with “Yeah, that’s because everyone has blocked each other”.  This is a tragic byproduct of the age we live in.  We have the greatest opportunity to interact with people from all over the world, and we waist the chance by treating each other so poorly. 

One final thought on this subject.  While I choose to disengage with people, I never stop praying for them.  In fact, it’s the ones that treat me the worst that I pray for the most.  This is all I can do in some cases.  And while it feels like an act of giving up, I have come to realize that putting the problem in the hands of God is probably the best that I can hope for.  As the Gambler himself would say “If you’re gonna play the game, you gotta learn to play it right”.  

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