“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” – Romans 12:18
If you listen to talk radio, cable news, or pay attention to social media, it seems that we are more divisive than ever. Constant bickering. Long tirades. The risk of being unfriended. Polar opposite views which either calls the crazies out of the woodwork (which I am probably one of them!) or makes us feel like we need to retreat into our corners. Why is there so much hostility? Why is there so much friction? Is this who we have become? The 21st Century World.
There is a growing belief that part of the culprit of this trend is social media. Individuals of every way of life, belief or conspiracy are able to find someone who is like-minded. As a result, we can shelter out dissenting voices and be amplified by those who give a hearty “Amen!” This has created a snowball affect where individuals only look to find approval for their opinions and are quick to ridicule the perceived absurdity of others. In the past, this wasn’t so easy. Individuals shared their opinion in public settings, such as barber shops and cafés. They could express their hard felt opinion to others only to have them give a countering opinion. We had to listen to them, hear their tone and look them in the eyes. This created a balance were we checked our own opinions to see if they were appropriate and God-honoring. Often, another point of view was expressed and we were challenged to see the individual and not rhetoric.
I love social media, texting, and the ease of email, so please do not hear me wrong. They are great tools! However, in our attempt to reach out and connect with others from a computer screen in our own living room, I fear that we have become dehumanized. We can become so quick to feel validated, waiting for the “Likes” to tally up, that we fail to ask ourselves what is the greater goal? Am I living at peace with all men so in that I might be a light and salt to the world? Or have I become a distraction for that which I should be exemplifying? The quick retort says, “But it’s the truth!” To that we all hear our mother’s reply, “Yes, but is it kind or necessary?”
So what are we to do? (Especially those like me who enjoy a fiery debate)
- Foremost, ask yourself if the conversation is God-honoring. Does the comment build up the Kingdom of Heaven or does it distract from the Gospel.
- Speak in a tone which is respectful and encouraging. Double check for perceived inflammatory or abusive words. Remember that tone is not always communicated over written word.
- Walk into the conversation seeking to learn. Look for true heartfelt needs within their written word. Be slow to type and even slower to hit “Enter”
- Review your interaction and ask, “If someone would sum up everything I have to say, what would it be? Is that what I would want to be known for?”
And every once and a while, pull away from the computer screen, leave your smart phone behind, stretch your legs, and meet new friends face to face. Listen to what they have to say, make eye contact, and share the love of Jesus!