Facebook encourages us to share our thoughts and feelings with the whole world- instantly, unfiltered, and unedited. That’s one reason why the site that made social media a household term has now become such a bore. Who knew there were so many angry, insecure people in the world? You could call it FDS.
Where did we lose those timeless truths; the insight that it’s generally not healthy to share everything you’re thinking and feeling instantly and unedited? You can injure other people. You can create unnecessary hostility and tension. And you can make yourself look inexcusably ignorant, superficial, and immature.
When I was five or six years old, a garrulous neighbor stopped by the house to visit my mom. In my young mind, it must have seemed she had been going on and on forever. So I blurted out a sensible request I must have heard someone else use: “Oh! Just get to the point!” I don’t know how long the neighbor stayed after that: only that I got a swat on the bottom and a trip to my room! My shocked mom later explained it’s uncivilized and unkind to say everything that comes to your mind. One of the most reliable metrics parents use to gauge how well their kids are growing up is simple self control.
Scripture counsels the people of God: “This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) In the Old Testament, the writer of Psalm 141 prays, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Outrage is like formal attire: it’s only appropriate for select occasions. But in American society today, indignation has become the first line of defense. In the realm of Twitter, you have to say it in 140 characters or less, like it or not. That means we should tweet less and think more. The real question is not how many characters are required, but rather, what kind of character does this message reflect? Am I behaving like a jerk? Do I seriously know all the facts? Does this really need to be communicated?
There are many, many reasonable responses to an unwelcome situation. There are replies that can pour oil on troubled water. There are attitudes that suggest this is not a crisis; we can all work together. There are answers that apply the balm of Gilead to bruised and broken hearts. And then… there is the Personal Apocalypse! Everybody on the floor! Now!
We live in a dysfunctional, distressing culture; so much that I often find indignation rising in my heart, quite unjustly, over something as simple as a thoughtless remark. I quickly bite my lip. Silence can truly be the pause that refreshes.
- Sometimes I realize the emotion that’s in order here is surprise. I wasn’t expecting that! So I reply, “Sorry, you caught me off guard. Tell me again….”
- Once in a while, I realize that I am at fault. It’s painful to be informed I have needlessly injured another person. “I’m sorry” is always a good start.
- Occasionally a situation occurs that simply disappoints me. Sadness is a necessary part of life. It’s not an occasion for a lawsuit or a fist fight. It’s okay to be sad once in a while.
- Then there are those moments that are embarrassing. My face glows red and I have no idea what to say. So I break the ice, “Well, this is awkward….” People smile and relax.
Even on occasions when outrage is appropriate, it’s often not effective. Human trafficking is as outrageous and barbaric today as it was in the 19th Century when the British economy was dependent on slavery. Outrage didn’t end legalized human bondage: that sort of rage fizzles too quickly: too intense and not focused enough. Rather, human slavery was finally outlawed in Britain as the result of prayer, cooperation, statesmanship, determination, and tenacious, tireless resistance against barbarism. It required a generation. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to live decades of ones life in a state of perpetual outrage, although some people foolishly try. Even crusaders have to occasionally lighten up and let a few things pass unchallenged.
A thousand years before Christ, Scripture noted “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” In a world of Facebook flatulence and Twitter twaddle, that principle is just as valid as ever. Being measured is a part of being wise.
Lift up the Cross!