Can’t we just be nice?

Pastor-2Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud…Do not be conceited.”

Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block in your brother’s way.”

Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we treat one another.  From our personal interactions to social media comments to the national political arena, it seems that there is a new level of rancor evident in human relationships.  The “Golden Rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – no longer applies.  What has happened to us as a culture to lead us down this path?  When did it become OK to de-value another person so much?  Why are we not more interested in the consequences of what we say?  And maybe that is the root of the problem here – there are no longer any consequences attributed to what we say and how we treat each other.

Social media has given us the power to say anything we want about any subject to anyone, with impunity.  We can be cruel, we can gossip, we can tell lies about other people and nothing happens to us when we are “protected” by the shield of a screen name.  This feeling of “empowerment” bleeds into the rest of our lives and we begin to act like we’re on Facebook when we’re dealing with people face-to-face.  The thing is – it is not OK to treat people badly in any context.  What you say on social media should be imagined in light of the people on the other end who will read what you write.  You do not comment in a vacuum and what you say matters.

All of this also seems to indicate that many people have developed a sense that their opinion is the only one that matters.  “If we disagree, you must be wrong!  There can be no other explanation.  And, since you are so obviously wrong, your opinion does not deserve respect and neither do you.  A person who is so obviously misguided is simply not worthy of being treated like a valued person; I am perfectly justified in calling you names and treating you badly.”  I know that sounds extreme and maybe it has not been your experience to encounter someone who thinks this way.  But, people like that are out there and this kind of attitude is influencing our social conversations.

None of us is immune to the temptation to feel a little bit superior once in a while and allow that feeling to taint the way we treat another person.  I must constantly remind myself that I cannot control the behavior of another person, nor can I control what they say or do to me.  I can, however, control the way I respond to others.  That seems to be the key to fixing this problem of rancor in our relationships.  If each one of us would understand that we have absolute control over the way we respond to others, then maybe we could remember to take a breath first, before we respond out of anger or fear or misunderstanding.  Maybe we could remember that we will be treated in the same way that we treat others.  Maybe we could take a moment to remember some of the words of Paul that are quoted above. Maybe we could place real value on every person and, therefore, their opinions.  Just maybe…

Listening with love,
Pastor Don