Have you ever noticed that I, Steve Goold the Dos, am listed as a contributing author to this blog? But I stopped contributing a while ago. Isn’t that weird? Boy. So weird.
The situation is thus: I had a series of posts about my year-long Bible reading thing (which I still do) and I got behind on the posts (not the readings, just the posts) and then I felt like I couldn’t post anything else on the blog until I finished the series (and I still haven’t finished it) and now I don’t want to finish the series at all (because I so massively dropped the ball on it).
SOOOOO… Bryan, I am sorry to massively drop the ball. Is it ok if I just post on other topics now instead of finishing the year-long Bible series? I’m not going to wait for you to respond. I’m just gonna start posting about other stuff and I probably won’t finish the year-long series.
What I want to say in this post is simple and basic and easy and not new and doesn’t need a long explanation, so I’ll just post it and that will be that. Easy. (But I like long explanations so things might go that direction.)
Here we go.
There is a way to make a point while also taking a shot at someone, and then there is a way to make a point without taking the shot. There is a way to communicate a truth while also being snide and condescending, and then there’s a way to communicate the same truth without being snide or condescending. One can express a viewpoint or perspective in a demeaning or insulting way, or one can express themselves in a respectful way.
My suggestion: We – the people of God, the followers of Jesus, the messengers of the Kingdom, those who are charged with making disciples of all the nations – we should diligently choose the latter options listed above rather than the former.
The rest of the post is the part where I do the long explanation thing, so bail out now if that’s something you’re not interested in.
At the Goold house we don’t allow Betty (age 8) and Suzy (age 4) to watch the modern Disney shows. This is frustrating to my kids because the shows are funny and fun to watch, but our house rule exists because the nature of the comedy is so disrespectful. All of the characters constantly speak to one another in very sarcastic and mocking ways, and the studio audience laughs and so do I. Being unkind is funny in these sitcoms, and that’s not a concept that I want my kids soaking up.
Because it’s not true. Being unkind is not, in the end, funny. It’s hurtful and unhelpful and unnecessary. At least I have observed this to be the case.
I have also observed, over recent years, that being unkind for comedic purposes has reached an almost epidemic level in our culture. Making a point while simultaneously making a joke at someone’s expense is now the standard currency of discussion/debate, and this seems to be especially the case in the blogging and social networking worlds. I imagine this is so because of the pronounced instinct (that we all feel) to “win” a discussion/debate, combined with the instinct to cheer for our fellow “teammates” when they are “winning” a discussion/debate. Verbally stabbing one’s “opponent” while also getting a laugh from potential onlookers is perceived as a way to gain more points in the discussion/debate “contest.” And then this phenomenon also applies outside of discussions/debates, spilling into situations like under-my-breath comments while waiting in line for an extra slow gas station clerk, a sharp exchange with an airline representative during a disagreement on baggage fees, or lashing out at a traffic officer during a busy rush hour.
I’m as guilty as anyone. There is a particularly pleasing sensation that accompanies delivering a verbal kick-in-the-teeth to my discussion/debate “adversary.” I know this sensation well. When I’m tempted to try this, and then find myself succeeding, it usually makes me want to do it again. And the onlookers cheer and laugh and pat me on the back, which makes me want to do it yet again.
But I don’t think I have biblical permission to do this. (Sidenote: Do I? Is there a biblical precedent one way or the other on this issue? Those aren’t rhetorical questions. Chime in on the comments if you think there’s something in God’s Word to bring to bear here.)
I mean, we are talking about people here. They have feelings. Their Creator loves them. And we, as followers of Jesus, are told to love them too.
Then there’s the angle of effectiveness to consider. A personal attack is the easiest thing to be dismissive toward. I mean, right? Haven’t we all seen it to be true that disrespectful and demeaning tones cause the person I’m talking with to immediately become defensive and argumentative? I want the folks I’m talking with to hear what I have to say. I actually want to make a point. Or… do I? I admit that, for me, sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I don’t want to love people, and I don’t want to make a point. Instead I just want to “win.”
Let me be clear as to what I’m talking about right now and what I’m NOT talking about. I can and should represent my beliefs and my convictions. I can and should speak what I know to be truth into social situations that are suffering from a lack of moral compass. I can and should disagree with someone who engages me in a conversation about sin or scripture or doctrine (or anything else) and puts forth a perspective that I feel is incorrect or misleading. And… I can and I should do all of these things without the common point-making tools of crassness, personal attacks, mockery, belittling, condescension, or sarcasm.
Nothing is lost in my argument if I present my argument in a loving way. Nothing is sacrificed in my logic if I lay out my logic in a loving way. Nothing in my point will be missed, nothing in my assertion will be weak, and nothing in my message will be lost. I can and I should handle myself in a loving way, and there is no downside when I do (that I’m aware of).
Some context: This stuff has been on my mind for a while now, but I’m taking the time to write this post today because of some internet articles I just read. Good articles. I’m not going to name names, but these are good articles written by good people who have good things to say. And then they say it with words that cut and stab instead of words that convince and persuade.
Whaaaaaat a bummer.
I mean, Internet articles really are a big thing right now – maybe even the primary platform for the market of ideas. And I want to have my mind affected by the thoughts and messages of these godly and wise bloggers/authors/thinkers! I want to read these articles and benefit from their content, which is I’m sure what the authors also want. But I find more disrespectful joking and jabbing than any Disney show, and I do not want to be influenced by that. I very strongly do not wish to further sharpen my already innate instinct to use low blows as a means of “winning.”
And then the harsh words make me lose respect for the authors. Shoot. I don’t want that to happen! Ummm… let’s quick just all agree to not do that. Don’t lose respect for good people with good things to say just because they choose to use low blows in their speech. “He who is without sin…” right?
Blah blah blah Steve… why don’t you say something about how we can make the situation better instead of just complaining about the articles/authors that you’re not even naming? Ok.
My suggestion: Every time you read a Facebook article or blog post or whatever (including this one or anything else), try to detect any and all harshness or meanness or rudeness or unkindness or lack of love. Then, try to imagine a way to make the same points but without all of that negative stuff. And resist the instinct to lose respect for the authors while you do this.
When I follow my suggestion here a couple cool things happen. The concepts/ideas that I’m reading about tend to solidify in my mind in a more convincing yet less aggressive way, which feels really productive. And this habit also sharpens my ability to detect unnecessary negativity, which is a microscope I can turn back around to myself and my own conversations. So far it’s working pretty well for me, I think. But I suppose I should let others determine that. 🙂
John 13:35, ya’ll. Thanks for reading.