As you might imagine or have witnessed firsthand, I regularly encounter people who show up in my inbox or on my timeline or in my comment section because something I’ve written or said has caused them…extreme discomfort. They arrive announced, and unceremoniously unload a fierce and brutal verbal assault in protest or dissention often peppered with vitriol, punctuated with profanity, and littered with expletives. That’s not to say these replies don’t sometimes include valid criticisms, but the packaging can certainly be less than pleasant. In those moments and in the conversations that flow from them I have continually ask myself the questions, Am I trying to understand this person or am I trying to defeat them? Am I burdened to show them something I’ve seen or experienced that they haven’t or to show them how much smarter or more enlightened I am? Am I genuinely seeking to change their hearts – or am I trying to make them feel like an a-hole? I know which answers my faith demand of me, the path Jesus carved out for me. I also know how addictive the alternative can be: how the cheap temporary high of putting someone on blast or verbally dismantling them is. I bet you do, too. We all understand how intoxicating winning an argument or making someone feel stupid can be – but we also know that’s not what love does, don’t we? We almost always look back retrospectively and can see where we’ve blown it and where we got it right.
From “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans” by John Pavlovitz – Westminster John Knox Press