Part 1 of an Interview with Amberly Neese, Author of Common Ground
In her new Bible study, Common Ground: Loving Others Despite Our Differences, author, speaker, and humorist Amberly Neese leads women in a study of sibling rivalries in Scripture so that all members of God’s family can find a safe place to come together to navigate conflict and heal relationships.
Whether it is in politics, the professional world, a party, or a pew, every person faces some kind of conflict on a daily basis. It’s not only in-person interactions that can become heated—social media is deluged with opinion-spewing, hurt feelings, and broken friendships. What we so desperately need is hope and practical tools to navigate the tumultuous waters in order to live at peace with everyone.
Q: These days it seems like people argue just for the sake of arguing rather than trying to find common ground. Do you have any theories on why every topic seems to be so polarizing? Honestly, with feelings of isolation and disconnection at an all-time high, I think people try (albeit unsuccessfully) to cling to anything that feels secure to them—at the expense of the feelings and perspectives of others. Much like an injured animal that tries, in their pain, to bite their rescuer, when we are feeling depleted and injured, we have a tendency to hurt others and undermine community in the process. Q: Your Common Ground Bible study focuses on four pairs of Biblical siblings as examples for living at peace with others, even when you disagree. Who are the sets of siblings, and what lessons can we learn from each? Fortunately for us, the scriptures hold the key to living at peace despite our differences in the stories of sibling rivalries in the Old and New Testaments. In Common Ground, we explore four sibling relationships and their lessons: 1. Joseph and His Brothers: How to Combat Jealousy 2. Moses, Miriam, and Aaron: How to Work Together Despite Differences 3. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus: How to Appreciate the Contributions of Others 4. Rachel and Leah: Having Compassion for the Plight of Others Obviously, in Christ, we are called to live at peace with our brothers and sisters in the faith, so although there are direct lessons we can glean for getting along with actual family members, the scope of the study is for ALL of us in the family of God. Q: The alternative to hashing out differences on someone’s social media post is to unfollow, unfriend, or snooze a friend for thirty days. Is that really a better solution to conflict when someone is truly a friend, not just an acquaintance? The most loving thing we can do when we are having an issue with someone in our lives is to practice Matthew 18 and go to the person directly. Even if that person is only an acquaintance, the most effective (and probably uncomfortable) thing is to encourage them to do what is right. I think unfollowing/unfriending/snoozing can seem peaceful, but true peace comes with truth, not avoidance. Q: It’s easy to pick up on jealousy in our kids, but is it as easy to identify in adults? How do we maturely mend fences and overcome those feelings as grown-ups? If we are to find common ground on the battlegrounds of our hearts, our relationships, and our social media accounts, we must eradicate jealousy. We must take time to reflect on the goodness of God and the high value He has placed on each of us. We must learn to celebrate the awesomeness in others. When we are willing to do that, it can help shape our interactions and relationships for the better. We must be willing to take a fearless assessment of places in our hearts we might be harboring jealousy against another and confess it.
Common Ground: Loving Others Despite Our Differences A Study of Sibling Rivalries in the Bible By Amberly Neese Available from Abingdon Women Study Guide with Leader Helps: 9781791014506 / $16.99 DVD ISBN: 9781791014520 / $44.99
About the Author
Amberly Neese is a speaker, humorist, and encourager with a passion for “GRINspiring” others. As a featured speaker for the Aspire Women’s Events and the main host/comedienne for Marriage Date Night, two popular Christian events that tour nationally, she enjoys touching the hearts and minds and funny bones of people all over the country. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine, and she has found it’s also like glue—helping the truths of God’s Word to “stick.” Neese loves to remind women of the power and hope found in Scripture. Through a flair for storytelling and a love for Jesus, she candidly opens up her story alongside God’s Word to encourage others in their walk with Him. With a master’s degree from Biola University, Neese serves as an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University and the Master Connector for Inspiring Growth, an organization developed to equip and encourage growth in leaders and businesses. She is also the author of the women’s Bible studies Common Ground and The Belonging Project as well as the devotional The Friendship Initiative. She and her husband, Scott, have two teenagers and live in Prescott, Arizona, where they enjoy the great outdoors, the Food Network, and all things Star Wars. For more information, visit her website www.amberlyneese.com. She is also active on Facebook (@Amberly Neese – Comedian/Speaker), Twitter (@amberlyneese), and Instagram (@amberlyneese).