Proverbs 15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A young friend, in her mid-20’s told me a few weeks ago that she was shocked at how many people felt entitled to weigh in on issues or express their opinions about something they knew nothing about. The conversation we were having was a result of some posts she had read on social media. She said, “I am blown away by people who judge, share their opinion, or concern themselves with things that are none of their business.” She went on to tell me that she had been taught by her parents, “If, you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As I talked further with her I found out some of the comments had been incredibly critical, rude, and inconsiderate.
I had to agree with her. I too, am taken aback at the number of people who feel moved to publicly share their opinions and comments on topics they have no knowledge of. Unfortunately with social media, everything is so public. On any given day you can check social media sites, and a general scenario or comment has been posted and whether you like it or not, emotions are stirred and people feel like they have to respond. At the moment all of this takes place, you might as well say, let the games begin. In minutes a post has been hijacked by friends of friends of friends, who have no ‘skin in the game,’ but who feel compelled to be judgmental, arrogant, inconsiderate, and mean-spirited with their words. God’s word tells us in Colossians 15:4 that whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.
What I appreciate most about this young woman was the way she responded to the negativity. You see, the conversation was about someone very close to her, and she had ‘skin in the game.’ How did she handle it? Just like she was taught as a child. She gently reminded those involved in the hurtful posts that being judgmental benefited no one. She reminded them that treating people with kindness and encouragement was the way to go. She did not call them by name. She did not accuse any one; but instead made the decision to remain positive. I believe she was a shining example for how to handle a difficult situation. She could have responded just as they did, but what would that have accomplished? Although the comments were uncalled for, it was not about striking back or getting even. Just as 1 Peter 3:9 tells us, we should never tear others down verbally or get back at them if we feel hurt. As humans we spend time trying to wrap our minds around why people say the things they do. While we are entitled to our opinions about various things, no one ever said it was necessary to share those opinions out loud. It’s easy to be brave and respond negatively when hiding behind a computer screen. After all, there is no face-to-face contact where emotions are involved, so people feel safe. We are also hampered by a culture that preaches a ‘who cares?’ attitude and, “if it feels good, do it, or say it!”
What happened to loving people just as God loves us? The way we respond is a direct reflection of who we are. Our comments should be saved for those times when we have a genuine concern or investment with the issue. At best, our comments should be favorable, kind, encouraging and supportive; remembering that every comment posted in any of those arenas is public for the world to see. It’s called our digital footprint.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when we find ourselves in these situations.
- Be selective about what you write on social media. There is a lot to be said for privacy. The world doesn’t need to see or experience every moment of your life. The privacy element takes care of a lot of the drama that results from sharing too much.
- When you read situations that friends or family are mentioned in, take it at face value. It is what it is, and you don’t need to defend the truth.
- Pick your battles. When you do read something that upsets you or concerns you, think about your response. Avoid lashing out and hitting the submit button. In other words, think about what you are posting; it is difficult to take back. If you do choose to respond, keep it positive and avoid getting personal.
As we move into the week ahead, I want you to pray for your offenders, remembering no one is perfect. I also want to encourage you to be a breath of fresh air to others. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says to ‘therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.’ I’ll be praying for you.