Like much dialog on the internet, Christians discussants dive for the jugular far too often. Being in a discussion means you listen then talk — just like in the real world! Far too many people treat social networks as a place for monotonous monologue. That’s what blogs are for. Welcome to mine.
I love being involved in robust discussion and often encounter online bullies and those hurt by them. As a primary school chaplain by day, I can’t help pulling out my resilience flashcards when I get online. Treating each-other with kindness lets everyone have more fun on the playground! Social environments involve a personal commitment to caring for others not just yourself.
As a Christian it should be our personal mission to treat others as Jesus would treat them. Pull out all the grace stops! Let them have a full dose of God’s love and mercy. That should keep you constrained while sharing your views.
But, as we all know, there are many people who do not play by these rules online. They are mean spirited and unChristlike. Here are some tips to keep you resilient in the face of the verbal onslaught.
Don’t take the haters too seriously. Using mean or dismissive language is often a sign that a person is not as resilient as they could be and have reached their emotional limit (or theological limit, as the case may be) and are thus no longer able to take the argument further. To side step, they poo-poo the thought or belittle the opponent. My advice: See this as a weakness in their character, not yours.
Emotional: John Calvin loved the work of church father John Chrysostom, yet struggled mightily with some of what his namesake had to say. He wanted it to fit into current (at Calvin’s time!) theological thought development. In his struggles he occasionally decided to painfully discard the exegetical tradition of Chrysostom but held on to much of his practical teaching and application. That’s how a scholar works. A Scholar only butchers and bags another scholar when he has reached the end of his rope!
Theological: Scrawled in every poor preachers mental margin is this note: “Weak point — POUND PULPIT!!” One of the hardest things to say, for those of us who know everything, is: “I don’t know.” We’d rather yell our view and pound on the nearest flat surface than admit we have some thinking to do.
Resilience: This is where mature Christian emotion and theology take us when a topic exasperates or exceeds us. Resilience says, “I’m OK in who I am and who you are. I can change myself if needed and I don’t need to change you to feel safe.”
Resilience in myself: I know who I am in Christ. He saved me while I was a hopeless sinner. He loved me before I knew anything. Knowing Him and His view of me gives me strength.
Resilient view of others: I know every person I meet was created in the Image of God. As they fix their eyes on Him they become like Him. By beholding we are changed. Knowing that all of us are on the continuum between Self and God gives me grace enough for myself and others.
Be of good cheer, you are among friends! We are all growing.
Keep changing the world,