Opinions and Courtesy

In the last few days I've read or learned of incredibly negative and hurtful comments left on other blog posts. While I understand that if we leave our blogs open to public comment we can expect comments from people who disagree with our thoughts or opinions but what I don't understand is why do they have to be so hateful and mean?

This is still the United States of America. The home of the free, the land of the brave. This country was not founded on forcing someone to believe what you believe or hating them because they don't. This country was founded on the idea that God created us equal and we are to live our lives as He directs us.

Because I believe Jesus Christ is the One, the only True Savior that is how I'm going to live my life and that is what I'm going to share with you, hopefully more by who I am than by my words but my words will not betray my Savior, either. I do, however, know that only God can change hearts and that it is not up to me to force anyone else to accept Christ as their Savior - that is between them and God. When I write about something that is faith based, I don't expect everyone to agree with me. What I also don't expect is to be talked to as if I am some sort of non-human because I believe what I believe.

These comments aren't limited to opinions of faith but those seem to be the ones that draw out those who might otherwise either not comment or comment more moderately. To me, that is a shame because the thing the Pilgrims were running from was religious persecution and what they went running to was a place they could practice their beliefs without fear.

The fear others express in their angry or hateful words also spits in the face of those fought so hard through the Revolutionary War. Their lives were upturned, families were lost and much blood was shed so we could have the freedoms we have. Men, while disagreeing with each other, spoke respectfully and argued respectfully. Even if they did not like one another there was honor in how they dealt with that. For those who toss their words around so callously and carelessly - where is their honor? Where is their shame? Freedom of speech doesn't include the freedom to insult, berate or degrade others when they exercise that same right.

Recently I read a blip in Discipleship Journal (I can't recall which month or which page or which section it was under) where it stated that Americans today are not interested in speaking to people who hold a different opinion from them. Whereas in days gone by, lively discussion and differing opinions were welcome and accepted, today people only want to hear from others who agree with them. They want their opinion validated - not questioned.

Where is the growth in that? Where is there honesty or true friendship in that? If I surround myself with "yes" people, how am I ever going to break a hurtful habit? How am I to learn if my facts aren't straight if I refuse to listen to anyone who may be more informed than I am?

That works both ways, of course. If I am to be told I am mistaken, there is a way to do it without insulting me or my intelligence. I may be wrong about something but that doesn't make me stupid. My opinion may not be completely thought out but that doesn't make me lazy or absurd. I only become those things when my reaction to constructive criticism is with hateful and angry words.

Proverbs 27:5-6 states "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy."

When we offer one another our thoughts and opinions, we also offer opportunity. An opportunity to see a perspective we may not otherwise see. If we offer it in anger, or with foul words and in a defensive manner, opportunity is lost on both sides. It is a true loss as well as God did not make us out to be quiet, intimidated creatures. He gave us our thought processes in order for us TO grow, TO learn, TO discuss. By attempting to quash that in someone because their thoughts differ is simply cowardice.

Jesus tells a young, wealthy man what he needs to do to inherit the kingdom of God. One of the things He tells this young man is to "...love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:19) and that is something we should all do but often fail to follow through. If I speak to someone as I would want to be spoken to, then the hateful and angry words are often kept in my mouth - not falling out of it.

In commenting on a blog, it is easy to post "anonymously" and say things when there is the protection of a computer. We are not face to face - how brave we can be. How free we can be with our words! How foolish and cowardly it makes us... We still have immense power to inflict pain and it's a cheap, easy shot to take. How is it so many of us fall right off the high road, trip and land in the mud and pretend to like it there? How is that loving your neighbor as yourself?

I have spent a lot of time angry at people or circumstances through the years - and I probably will spend more if God grants me more years here - but I have learned that the hurt inflicted from words poorly used lasts a thousand times longer than the anger I feel at whomever I am flinging my words.

We will probably never stop the hurtful comments - there are those who consider themselves self-righteous enough to have to "educate" those who are "wrong" and there are those who just simply find saying mean things funny.

How many of us can relate to Paul: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." (Roman 7:18-20)

Hopefully those who make such comments realize their power in pain and apologize for causing it. If not, I hope they take a moment before making their next comment and choose to take a kinder, gentler approach. We live in a fallen world so it will not be perfect but perhaps it can get a bit better, one small choice at a time.

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