The internet is a strange place to explore human behavior… Cruelty. Kindness.
Sunday, a friend who is running for State Assembly posted a comment about the separation of Church and State on Facebook and a discussion started about what that actually meant. For the most part it was a good, intelligent, and civil conversation. Except for this one sort of rude, sort of stupid self proclaimed “Christian” who tried to control and bully everyone rather then persuade. In my opinion he was self righteous and insulting… and almost a caricature of an anti-government fundamentalist. But like the brilliant person I am I engaged him. The “fight” went on for over a day and I took it to private messages, where he finally resorted to throwing my son’s suicide at me and then slamming the door and taking his toys home. I took a screen shot of the conversation and posted it on facebook (which is sort of passive aggressive) and several dozen friends immediately chimed in with likes, words of support and encouragement, and offers of violent retribution… real or imagined. I even left the guy’s name, Dana Wells in… just because even though I though of his privacy… I am that immature and I wanted to “out” him as an “asshole”… Here is what I learned (or re-learned).
1. Some people, to win an argument will say the worst possible thing. (Bullshit like “You might want to examine why your son (sic) hung himself to see if there is something you neglected as a father”… “Your son is gone… he doesn’t matter.”) When stupid mean people say stupid mean things it is shocking, but it shouldn’t be surprising. And when you share your heart, you give stupid mean people ammunition.
2. The worst people in my world call themselves Christians… but so do the best. And some of the best call themselves other things… Labels don’t mean as much as actions. Those supporters? I totally got loved bombed by lots of Christians… and pagans, atheists, Mormons and Catholics (who get excluded by the non denominational among us when we say “Christian”), agnostics, ex-Christians… from all walks of life, from all ethnic groups, from as far away as Canada and England. Having someone hit the worst emotional button they could find doesn’t even match the outpouring of supportive words and blessings from a huge number of diverse people. I loved the support. I needed the support and it was there for me in abundance. Cruel words from the one bad person was far outweighed by the kind words of 43 good people.
3. Although I think I strive to be Christ-like as my path in life… I really don’t. In many many ways I am more like this person than I am like Christ. This man is my mirror. I am stupid and mean as well. I can be obsessive. I am not always rational or logical or nice. I am perfectly capable of the exact same behavior. Of course I’m right and he’s wrong. Returning evil for evil. Name calling. Self righteous, egotistical, sanctimonious… of course I know better the things of God… yeah I can do that. Push the worst emotional button I can find to win? I think I am totally capable. Consciously or unconsciously flawed: Selfish. Self centered. Uncaring. Mean. I can and I have hurt people simply because I was “right”… simply to “win”. I should know what that feels like.
4. Some people are more upset by coarse language then amazingly and blatantly horrible conduct. I should watch the language… (but I think “asshole” in this case is appropriate… as was “bullshit”) But it doesn’t take more than a moment to find “nice” words that mean obscene things. Someone once said something about the obscenity of being more offended by the F word then children starving… and maybe that is true. Still maybe I should clean up my language a bit.
So I think the lesson staring me in the face is to strive to be better. Don’t think about being Christ like… actions not labels. Not words. And think before I post. Before I hit send or post… pause for a minute and really consider for that moment the other person as more important than my self. Clean up the language. Be nice. Be civil. Avoid attacking the person and be willing to “lose” the argument if it means avoiding saying harmful things for the benefit of the other person. Kindness isn’t always easy. Sometimes the cruelest things can be easy, clever, funny… appropriate to the moment…. but only to serve self, ego, my agenda. I think the bigger picture is far more important. Being kind to one another… and showing the fruits of the Spirit.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.