There is a lot of hot political debate going on. No problem. That's what happens in a free society during election years, and this election year is a DOOZY.
But yesterday something really alarming happened to me. I am still shaken by it. I made a comment in a non-political discussion about child-rearing. I was not judgmental. I didn't tell anyone how to raise their kids. I just said how we chose to do it and that our kids and turned out just great - my idea being that there are a LOT of options to child-raising and as adults, we get to choose. Seems straightforward enough. I didn't tell anyone else how to raise their kids, didn't even hint. Not my business. I was giving a perspective
from the standpoint of someone who has been there, done that, and everyone survived. First the poster of the article took a big sarcastic bite out of me. Then five friends piped in, equally sarcastic and condemning. I tried to defend and defuse by replying - that I mean no judgment, no criticism, and that nothing I said implied either. Then the feeding frenzy began. It was still going this morning. If I were a swimmer in the Amazon, I'd be nothing but a skeleton by now. I went in and deleted my original post which took all the mean stuff with it.
What is alarming to me is that these are all supposedly Christian women. I believe most of them are a lot younger than I, perhaps young enough to be my daughters. They felt free to rip me to shreds with their words. The meaner the comment, the more "likes" it got. They don't know me. And I am CERTAIN that had we been together in a room, no one would have spoken that way to my face. What happened?
Somehow I offended. And was punished, severely. I hate to say it, but this is the way women behave at their worst. We all experienced it in junior high school, right? Either we were the Queen Bee (or one of her honey bees) or we were on the receiving end. It is a huge temptation for us women - pile on, take bites, (with a smile) without any regard for the personhood of the one being bitten. It is one of the great vices of women that we can get a thrill out of making other women feel bad. And the really weird thing is that it is a tendency in total opposition to WHO WE ARE as women - we are made for relationship-building, for intimacy, for bringing others close. At our worst, we do just the opposite. I am very sad about it.
So, here are some guidelines I suggest, and want to follow myself, for civil, kind discussions online. What do you think?
1. Be kind. If you don't like something someone says, but it really doesn't touch on your life, let it pass. Scroll.
2. If you want to disagree, do so with your BEST tools - kindness, goodness, intelligence, carefully chosen words, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, and be polite. And remember, not every comment is an agree/disagree moment. Sometimes people are just sharing, especially women. It's what we do. It's how we connect. If we do it badly here and there, so what? Benefit of the doubt.
3. Never be sarcastic. Ever. Sarcasm is the sulphuric acid of words. Just don't.
4. What would Jesus write? Seriously. If we call ourselves Christians we carry His name. I am pretty sure Jesus never took a bite out of anyone except the Pharisees - religious hypocrites.
5. If you are consistently bugged by someone's posts, unfriend them or select "do not follow but stay friends" or just scroll and get over it. Be glad the world isn't full of clones of yourself.
I am very impressed by and grateful for my friends who strongly disagree with me politically and do so with dignity and civility. They are real friends. They say what they want to say (and it IS a discussion in this case) without rancor, condemnation, ill-will, and they give me the benefit of the doubt. They are an example to me and to anyone who reads our discussions.Way to go!
Social media has it's good points. But it can be a tool for bringing out the worst in us humans whether that is easy access to porn or easy access to mean girl opportunities. Let's watch it, all of us.
Be kind and do good. Please add your suggestions!
I am a Catholic wife, mom and grandma. In 1995, after Bible college and a few years as an Evangelical Missionary, I was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. These are my personal musings on Scripture, prayer, and living close to Jesus.