A friend of mine recently got into a battle of words that has led to no small amount of intemperate language in the blogosphere. Some hornets’ nests require very little stirring up, and there are many who are waiting for any sign of weakness, any act at which they can take offense. I can’t help but observe from my occasional visits to certain blogs that the primary authors of the content and the commentary actually appear to relish the opportunity to be offended. In all honesty I note that this is not confined entirely to blogs from the right of the ecclesio-political spectrum. There is something deeper here, some character flaw that afflicts us all, and of which we had all best be aware. All of us need a good long look in the mirror now and again, and I include myself in this.
Anger, offense, luxuriating in one’s own victimization, in being insulted and injured, can be powerful sources of emotional energy. They are stimulant drugs, the energy drinks of the soul; and though they“give you wings” I fear they are the kind with scales instead of feathers. They may help you build up a head of steam, but their addictive quality will lead you to seek for more and more offense, rather than seeking peace, understanding and reconciliation. Revenge, whether served hot or cold, may be tasty but it is not nutritious. The junk food of the soul will leave you empty and exhausted.
Still, when offense is given can offense be taken? I suggest it is the manner of response that is at issue. Righteous indignation may be righteous, but it is undignified by definition. So I call upon us all — and I preach to myself in this as well — to aim for righteous dignation instead. Disagree, as it appears we must disagree, but hold back from empty attacks and dismissals that assault the person rather than the premise. Make your case as calmly and clearly as you can, in a spirit of humility as far as in you lies. Speak the truth in love, with as much emphasis on the love as on the truth. As the psalm says, “Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.”
It is, after all, so easy to be witty and clever when saying something nasty. We all enjoy a good “snap” line from time to time, though no one enjoys being on the receiving end of one. That alone should tell us something. And how much more difficult it is to be witty and clever when saying something nice! It is, after all, so easy to tear down — it takes no more talent than a bulldozer; and a house of cards can be dismantled with a breath — but it is far harder to build up; that takes real skill, real talent. Yet isn’t that what God has called us to do, equipped us to do, expects us to do?
Peace be with us all.
Tobias Haller BSG