It’s been said that right now the media world – especially social media – is a dumpster fire – a raging cauldron of junk that entices and mesmerizes onlookers until they too are throwing anything and everything into the bin to see how the flames catch and destroy.
There is a war of ideas being waged, many of which are truly important. Sanctity of life. The inherent value of every person regardless of color, faith, creed, sexual orientation, or any other delineating factor.
But have you noticed the prevalent tone that’s taken hold?
We’re seeing a ton of it, and it’s making our hearts pound every time we look at a screen.
A 2014 article for Smithsonian Magazine entitled “Which Emotion Goes Viral the Fastest?” said that “Joy moves faster than sadness or disgust, but nothing is speedier than rage.” Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and one of his colleagues analyzed 7,000 New York Times articles published during a three-month period to see which ones were most frequently shared. They “found that users reacted most angrily—and quickly—to reports concerning ‘social problems and diplomatic issues.’”
Makes sense, especially in the current climate.
But if we’re honest, we also know that the problem is not just with reports coming from other people.
Sometimes we want to insert ourselves – maybe throw a big, fat, sofa into the fire – the TRUTH that will smack stuff down and burn for longer than the other arguments.
A nasty, vituperative quality can invade our words when we start to claim the moral high ground, even if our cause is true and just.
It is possible to have righteous anger, to act out of that space, but it requires a level of self-control that, I would submit, none of us have on our own. The minute I start to argue vociferously, I sense an inner change, a shift away from equilibrium because I was designed by the Creator to rely on His peace. I must remind myself that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) but without Him I can do nothing (John 15:5).
In a time when the world needs loving, kind voices, people of faith have so much to offer. When there’s tumult all around, it’s good to ask, ‘How do we share our concerns honorably and charitably? In ways that aim for unity and understanding? Bringing hope and light into spaces churning wildly with hurtful discourse?’
First – a simple acronym that’s posted in multiple places in my kids’ elementary school. Maybe you’ve seen it:
Before you speak …THINK!
T – is it true?
H – is it helpful?
I – is it inspiring?
N – is it necessary?
K – is it kind?
Pause and speak first to the Spirit, contemplating these things.
And second – let’s consider the fruit of our words to make sure we are consistently moving in accord with God’s will.
St. Paul explained in Galatians 5:22-23, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control.” Look at the ‘fruit’ in your life – the relationships that matter most – and see if over time they don’t reflect the efforts of your consultation with God. Our hearts change the more we talk to Him and ask for His guidance.
Why? Because God loves every single one of us as if we were the only human He ever created. His love is unconditional and eternal. There is nothing like it.
Today, we go on, leaning into the goodness of God.
We allow the Spirit living in us to more fully infuse our hearts and minds.
We speak with great, gentle, and tender love.
And we wait for better times with the hope that surpasses all understanding.