I’m a person of conviction. Whether it’s my faith, my political views, or my thoughts on parenting – I tend to have strong feelings. I believe deeply. People of conviction often long to share their ideas and beliefs with others, but I’ve been disappointed with the methods so many people of conviction employ.

As a new homeschooler, I’ve been eagerly reading every bit of information I can get my hands on. I’ve read books, articles, and researched the various methods and schools of thought regarding home instruction. In addition to speaking with the homeschoolers I know in real life, I decided to find a few online communities as well. I found a group that sounded like it might be a match for me, and sent a request to join their Facebook group. About a week later, I received a message from the group Admin which detailed 17 points  I was required to agree with in order to join the group. For a moment I assumed she must be joking.

As part of their “statement of faith” so to speak, group members had to “denounce all forms of public education” and state that there is “no other form of acceptable instruction” for children. I was floored. Every ounce of me wanted to write back to this woman, detailing my time as a public school teacher – letting her know of my deep respect for classroom teachers and the amazing work that goes on in today’s public schools. I wanted to let her know that while she claimed to serve the same Savior I do, she was missing the boat.

No matter how strong your convictions or how deeply held your beliefs, you must start and end with grace. This woman was no better than the road-side “evangelists” that shout condemnation. Does anyone think that waving a sign that reads, “You’re going to burn” will EVER change someone’s mind? Condemnation, judgement, and zealotry do not work. If you speak from a place of judgement, no one will hear you. 

It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the latest political scandal, that hot current event topic that’s all over your social media feed, your faith, or how you educate your children. It doesn’t matter how right you think you are, or how wrong you believe “the other side” to be. “Righteous” anger, condescension, and soap-box rants are not the way to communicate your convictions. Those who already agree with you may be able to walk away from your words with a bit of resolve, but those you are trying to reach and recruit will never hear a word you’re saying. Ever.

[tweetherder]You CANNOT reach anyone when you start from a place of judgement. [/tweetherder]Not ever.

Here’s the thing – is homeschooling the right decision for MY family? Yes. Is it the right decision for EVERY family? No. That homeschooling group may have had a few great ideas. There are probably people in that group with years of practical and useful tips and information that could benefit me. Will I ever be able to learn any of those things from them? No. Know why? They lost me as an audience the moment they demanded I conform to their specific belief system in order to be accepted. 

The message from the radical homeschooler ended by saying “If you believe XYZ, then you can belong to our group.” We CANNOT go through life basing acceptance of others on if/then statements! Love and respect don’t work that way.

You might have a wealth of knowledge, great ideas, and information that could benefit others. You could be an expert in your field. You might be a deeply passionate person with an incredible story to tell. But, if you speak from a place of judgement, rather than from a place of grace, the world will never know. We must start and end with grace. We must stop basing our acceptance of others on their willingness to conform to our belief system. Lay down your “hate signs.” Suppress your need to attack and condemn. Choose grace. Always grace.