I was on social media the other day (notice the negative connotation? Already you know it’s not going to be a feel-good story!) and commented on a post with which I disagreed. It’s something I don’t normally do because I find many people like to argue for arguments’ sake, and I don’t enjoy stoking their fire. I commented with what I thought were non-threatening statements, then moved on to put my view out there in a non-judgmental manner. I even put in a “Thanks for sharing!” because I was, genuinely, glad the friend had shared it. It had gotten me thinking, and I’m pretty sure that’s what provocative posts are supposed to do.
How do you think that worked out for me?
Yep. In two harsh sentences, the friend lambasted me for criticizing his or her beliefs.
Look, I can deal with people’s anger. I can deal with frustration and disappointment. I don’t wish to call the friend out either, as he or she is perfectly entitled to his or her opinion and how he or she handles her social media accounts. (By the way, I still consider him or her a friend. Check the end of this piece to find out why!***) That’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this to encourage you to broaden your minds when it comes to debating someone.
Friends, we’ve become a society of hot-headedness and impulse sharing. And when someone dares to say, “Here is how I see it…” we explode in rage. There are two problems here:
- The unwillingness to engage in a conversation you started yourself
2. The instantaneous assumption that someone saying “I don’t agree. Here is how I see it,” is synonymous with “I’m judging you. Here is what you should believe.”
Do not open conversations that you are not willing to engage in. And if that scares you, don’t worry. I’ve found that of the several times I have told online friends “I’d love to talk about this with you! When is a good time?” they simply ignore the message or end the conversation entirely. If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that they are more scared of being wrong than they are eager to learn. And that’s where the opportunity for dialogue–for interaction, learning, education, acceptance, understanding–crumbles. Listening to others does not mean you forfeit your beliefs and values. It doesn’t mean you give up your way of life or admit that the other has a better way of life. It doesn’t show weakness to allow someone of “opposition” (for lack of a better word) to take the microphone on your stage for a second. It shows maturity that you allow them to be there with you in the first place. Just as you would want them to do for you.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2, yo! Be patient with each other. When you think of the smart aleck thing to say, say the opposite. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Encourage open dialogue; don’t shut it down with harsh words, criticisms, teasing, or bullying.
For those who don’t engage on social media at all, that’s fine! Blessed are the peacekeepers, right? 😉 But please do not lump those of us who do engage into a “getting coal for Christmas” category. Social media, with all its faults and failures, has still become an unprecedented tool in sharing news, opinions, and cat videos! It starts conversations that would never be had otherwise!
For those who do engage on social media, use your head. Be polite, but don’t abandon your convictions for the sake of another person’s feelings. Don’t say anything to someone online that you wouldn’t say to someone in person. And speaking of in person: if you truly are sincere about having good, open conversations with someone you disagree with, offer to meet with them in person! If not, you may want to step back for a moment and ask, Why am I typing this? Why am I engaging in this debate? Am I arguing for the sake of arguing? Do I want to be right in front of hundreds of friends?
Check your hearts, friends. And let that be the only thing that dictates what comes out of your mouth or keyboard.
***BECAUSE HOW YOUR BELIEFS ARE RECEIVED ON SOCIAL MEDIA SHOULD NOT BE SOVEREIGN OVER LOVE FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR. Say it with me, folks.