Have you ever seen the gritty secrets posted on one of those completely anonymous “spill your guts” forums? The darkest things can come to light when no one can trace them back to you.
I’m sure we’ve all seen those passive-aggressive statuses or tweets.
Even when not anonymous, an interface like the internet can remove the fear of confrontation that many of us have. Suddenly we’re not yelling into a person’s face, we’re just using ALL CAPS for emphasis. We’re not being snarky in someone’s living room, we’re just using *sarcastic font* to show how idiotic his blog post was.
Bold is not necessarily beautiful.
Even if we’re pretty nice folks online, the ease and speed with which we communicate online can make us careless. The blinking cursor means we can’t see the hurt flicker across her face, or the way he just folded his arms. It’s hard to know when we’ve gone too far into the tender territory of her heart.
In the three years that I’ve been blogging, most of the reactions have been positive, but some have cut deep. In those moments, as I scroll down through barbed text or well-meaning platitudes, it’s a hard choice to breathe deep and remember grace. Grace for them and grace for me–because I’m not guiltless either.
I’m sure that wiser people could add to this list, but here are a few things that Jesus has brought to mind as I’ve wrestled with how to do community in this age of simultaneous connection and technological distance.
#1–Assume the best
My mom was right about this–most offenses will be erased before they even start if I begin by believing the other person meant well. Seriously, this works! I’ve been employed in customer service positions at a bank, a hotel, a restaurant, an ice cream shop and now at a university, and nothing diffuses stress in the other guy more quickly than feeling like you get them. When you give them the benefit of the doubt, you extend grace.
Remember, no one is the villain of their own story.
Did the person sound impatient? Assume that they are feeling pressure from someone else, or at least that they are frustrated with the situation and not with you.
Did their post come across dogmatic or abrasive? Assume that they have a good reason–a back story–for feeling so passionately about the subject.
Did they sound as if they intended to hurt you? They probably didn’t. Even if they did, this should evoke pity in us for the wounds they almost certainly have. Hurting people hurt people.
#2–Sleep on it
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. -James 1:19-20