Between the Women’s March, the election and inauguration, escalating racial tension and such, there has been plenty to fight about on social media. And we’ve probably all read a variation of the following sentiments:
“PSA: long post ahead and feel free to unfollow or unfriend me if you feel the need.”
“If you’re offended, unfriend me because you don’t deserve me as a friend.”
“If you really can’t understand (insert an issue) then I think you’re a garbage person. Unfriend me”
While “unfriending” may not be the fundamental issue, this tendency to isolate ourselves from those who think differently to us and even go so as to attack, degrade, name call, and take cheap shots at them is a dangerous path.
And even a highly unbiblical one.
Loving one another includes those who are different.
A good barometer of how much we love other people is how we act when we encounter someone who thinks differently than us.
When we only listen to those who agree with us, think like us, look like us, and make the same amount of money as us, we are missing the richness of what humanity has to offer. When we truly listen to each other with a heart to understand, it changes the dialogue and, hopefully, reminds us that they are people God created to be welcomed and loved into the family of Christ.
It’s easy to post rants about the danger of illegal immigration when we haven’t spoken to people who have know how difficult the bureaucratic process is. It’s easy to talk about how racism isn’t an issue when I don’t have friends who have had their lives altered or defined by daily injustices. It’s easy to think that Muslims are dangerous when I have not intentionally befriended them and understood their culture or religion more accurately than what the media may portray.
When the only dialogue that I hear is from those who agree with me and affirm my thoughts, it’s an intermarriage of thinking that is never challenged or broadened. It’s an echochamber.
When we open our eyes to others, we won’t necessarily change our minds, but we will enhance our perspective, better identifying what we truly believe and why.
The internet doesn’t define the rules of conflict.
The internet has created an environment where “trolling” is easy.
People say mean, nasty and horrendous things to people that they would never DREAM of saying in person (or maybe we would speak like that to their faces and are revealing a deeper issue).
It’s easy to hide behind our screens instead of pick up the phone. It’s easy to tweet my disagreement than to have a real life respectful conversation with someone who thinks differently. It seems as though honoring one another has been deleted from our online vocabulary. And the bigger problem is, we’ve started to translate our social media speak into how we actually speak to one another.
The good news is, the internet doesn’t have to define how we treat one another.
Love, honor, and civility can and should characterize all of our interactions with our online and in person friends.
We must abandon the mob mentality and put on the mantle of respect. Michelle Obama said it well when she reiterated, “when they go low, we go high!”
Building bridges takes persistent humility.
Sometimes, it’s not easy to listen to those who think differently than us, and we may be met with skepticism and criticism.
Doing good may not always be easy, but it’s worth it to push through the difficulty because at the end of the day, people are worth it.
As a naturally strong-willed child, my parents had to reiterate to that valuing other people was more important than being right. In the midst of a conflict, I would often hold on to my opinion at the expense of other people’s feelings or dignity. Was I good at winning arguments? Maybe. Good for developing real lasting relationships? Not really.
My life is not a reality TV show and my reactions should be based on God’s love for people, not what I see on TV or read on the internet.
Overcoming rejection and harassment takes a deep humility that is rooted in knowing who I am and the worth that I have as a God-given human being.
The way forward is together.
My life has been changed by the friends that I have that think differently then me. Over the last few months, I have seen many things on social media that I disagree with, that I find personally offensive or fundamentally against what my faith tells me to live out. My natural human tendency is to withdraw, to hide, to throw cheap shots and to bully someone into agreeing with me.
But I look at where bully culture is taking us and I have to pause. Love is missing.
As cliché as it sounds, we can accomplish great things if we keep in mind our responsibility to love one another.
When I see more than 20 different churches in South Florida from different denominations raise enough money to cover all of the medical expenses of the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting victims, I see the church working as it was created to.
When I hear about two extremely different advocacy groups in Colorado finding common ground and working together to pass legislation that combats human trafficking, I’m encouraged that collaboration is possible.
Will we find middle ground on every issue? No. But if we begin listening more, we might begin to see one another as more than images on a screen and once again as children of God.