Within the current political climate of our nation, it is increasingly difficult to practice self-restraint when it comes to sharing our opinions via social media.
I think we can all admit to at least one particularly pointed "post", "tweet", or "like" we probably should have thought twice about. We might find ourselves asking, "It seems that everybody else is speaking their mind without a filter, right? Why can't I?"
Have you ever been scrolling through your preferred social media application or website, just perusing the news and the happenings of your friends, when all of a sudden--the unthinkable happens: one of your friends has shared a thought that you vehemently disagree with. Oh no! What do we do next?
Should we "un-friend" them or block them from connecting with us ever again? Should we comment on their post with a calculated message of divisive disagreement and superiority? Should we just pretend we actually agree on everything and we didn't see the post at all?
Before I go any further, let's take a look at what God's Word says regarding how we ought (or ought not) to communicate our opinions:
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
There are at least four profoundly practical implications contained within this single verse.
1.) Is what I am about to communicate "corrupting" in any way?
Or in other words, is my comment or post going to promote more disunity, more anger, more perversion, and more derision? If so, then just don't do it. What's the real purpose of the post, anyway? Do we really believe that our opinion is going to make a positive difference here, or are we perhaps just longing to be heard? One of the Fruits of the Spirit is "self-control." There's no better place to practice self-control than on social media applications. If you must share your thought, try to focus on the true purpose of it, and be very careful with your word choice so as to prevent spreading more and more negativity.
2.) Is what I am about to communicate going to build someone up other than myself?
Who will truly benefit from what I want to say? Will anyone be encouraged by it? Will anyone feel drawn in a positive direction after reading it? If not, then just don't do it. Although we aren't always aware of it, our flesh is working behind the scenes to promote our own egos. Jesus never, ever promoted his own ego in such a way as to put someone else down. He consistently exhibited humility and compassion, building up even those that society had deemed unworthy. If you must share your thought, try to formulate it in such a way that is respectful of the other side's opinion, humbly willing to be corrected, and consciously promotive of the other side's God-given dignity.
3.) Is what I am about communicate appropriate considering situational context?
Who do I want to see the post? Who all will actually see the post? Have I thoroughly listened to the other side's point of view? Would this thought be better communicated in person? If yes, then just don't do it. Context is vitally important in our daily interactions with our fellow human beings. We must be well-informed of the subject, and be aware of who is in the room and how they will be affected by our words. Did Jesus ever say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Nope. He absolutely did not. Instead, Jesus said things like "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). If you must share your thought, think critically about the context, the medium, and the audience.
4.) Is what I am about to communicate grace-giving?
Am I all-right and the other side all-wrong? Is my word the final say regarding this subject? Are my words gracious, conversational, and forgiving in nature? If not, then just don't do it. Quite frankly, the world would be a much more beautiful place if we were more aware of how much grace we receive from God, and how easy it is to share that grace with others. Words do hurt, and what we say does matter--which is exactly why we must speak graciously. Jesus said that all people would know that we are His followers by the way we show love to each other (John 13:35). If you must share your thought, consider if it is reflecting the love and grace of Christ to the world.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES