Social media has been one of the greatest communication innovations of our age but with the optimization of communication and increased interconnectedness, we are also exposed to thoughts and opinions that might not only contradict our own but potentially attack and undermine them too.
The combination of anonymity and the lack of accountability can bring out the worst in people, giving some the courage to type out things they wouldn’t otherwise speak out loud. This can cause us to experience what the cool kids are calling “being triggered”.
This is the feeling of unease, offense, anger, and hurt caused by comments we may deem hurtful, dismissive, or unfair. As a result, we feel the need to defend our beliefs and stances on polarising matters.
Taking a stand on your beliefs is a good thing. Doing so in a Christ-like manner when you feel offended or attacked can be tricky, especially on social media!
What does the Bible have to say?
We need a frame work for navigating social media offense as christians. James 1:19-20 speaks about interacting with people of different opinions and these thoughts can be helpful for our social media experience.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry:
Verse 19 speaks into humility and grace. It challenges us to not hold our own point of view so highly that we fail to seek to find understanding. James tells us here, that we ought to be more intentional about listening (or reading in this instance) and seeking to understand.
This includes looking beyond the surface of people’s comments. Do they stem from pain, loneliness, past hurt, fear, or even boredom and hunger for attention? Considering this before choosing to engage can save you energy and hindsight embarrassment.
In his last point of verse 19, James adds that we should be slow to become angry. In a world where the offense is viewed as a virtue, and (oddly) a sign of intelligence, it is easy to jump on this bandwagon. This verse tells us that as followers of Christ, we should be slow to get angry.
If, like me, you have several triggers, it will help you to take time to evaluate those triggers. Ask yourself this: “Am I upset because this touches on core values or have I been conditioned to be offended and reactive by the society I live in.” Filter your triggers and sometimes, give people the benefit of the doubt.
Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires
Let’s assume for a moment that you are right and your “opponent(s)” have valuable lessons to learn from you. Even so, anger is not the most effective means of changing the heart of anyone. For someone’s heart to truly inclined towards the kind of righteousness that God desires, they must be transformed by Him.
I doubt that our emotional rampages are able to produce that in the heart of anyone. Pray for those who you know need a change of heart before engaging and let God lead you.
It’s important to protect your peace and not compromise your righteousness. Being a disciple of Jesus online is just as important as being a disciple in person.
It is comforting to know that even with innovations and changes in society, our Lord has made provision for His children. The truths of scripture are timeless and offer us insight into God’s heart for his children. What a beautiful thing to search the scriptures and find the guiding voice of our Father in all circumstances.
Your thoughts on navigating social media offense as christians?