This is a continuation of the previous post in which we looked at the importance of processing things at a slower pace. The first thing that we talked about was “Research”. Today we’re looking at the second:
I was recently troubled after reading an article regarding Bill Hybels’ response to Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz’s decision to cancel his speaking engagement at Willow’s annual Leadership Summit. Hybels didn’t trouble me. Shultz didn’t trouble me that much. What troubled me were the comments in response to the article. The reactionary comments that Christians were making were not only offensive, but ignorant. This is not uncommon, it is how much online “communication” takes place.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19).
Being quick to “speak your mind” is nothing new, of course. I can remember being really frustrated in one of my college classes at the dialogue that was happening. I couldn’t wait to spew out all the boiling water that was welling up in me. I raised my hand and spoke my mind. My professor, who was a brilliant man, simply responded to my ranting by saying, “do you feel better now?” and moved on to the next student.
I don’t think that the internet is the cause of short tempers or reactionary comments. But, with the ability to remain anonymous, we can post whatever we are feeling at a given moment without any fear of being held accountable (like I was in class). It would seem that with our real names we tend to be “less real”. Because we care about our “names”, we are more cautious to communicate what we are really thinking. When we take away our names and write anonymously, we are quicker to write what we are truly feeling. Of course, we need to remember that what we are feeling is not necessarily truth. How many times have you allowed yourself time to process a hard conversation or e-mail before responding, and upon calming down realized that not all of your initial feelings were accurate. How many times have you wished you had. Emotions are not bad, but at times they can be misleading. This is part of the problem with blogging. While there is, of course, many who think through what they write, there are twice as many who do not. I think we have to ask with C. S. Lewis – Is this really technological progress (See previous post)? N. T. Wright notes,
“It really is high time we developed a Christian ethic of blogging. Bad temper is bad temper even in the apparent privacy of your own hard drive, and harsh and unjust words, when released into the wild, rampage around and do real damage…the cyberspace equivalents of road rage don’t happen by accident. People who type vicious, angry, slanderous and inaccurate accusations do so because they feel their worldview to be under attack…sometimes worldviews have to be shaken. They may become idolatrous and self-serving”.
N. T. Wright in Justification
Perhaps to love God with our mind means that we are to be “slow to speak and quick to listen”. Quick to listen means taking time to process with our minds-in-our-hearts what the other is really saying. While I am guilty of offending this time and time again, I long to learn how to listen rather than react. Imagine if we were the kind of people who, when hearing or reading something that upsets us, actually pause to think about why and see if there is any truth to what is being said. What if our worldview needs to be shaken? What if “delayed gratification” refers not only to what we long to possess, but how we think and speak (which, of course, speaks of what we possess). In an age of instant everything, perhaps loving God with our minds means a turning away from instant thought/reaction, and learning to listen to what God and others might have to say – and only than offering a well thought out response – a response that would not be different if we were speaking face to face instead of screen to screen. For God to take our “instant minds” and transform them into minds that are not afraid to be silent, does not mean that we have minds that become afraid to speak. Thomas Merton says, “It is not speaking that breaks our silence, but the anxiety to be heard. The words of the proud man impose silence on all others, so that he alone may be heard. The humble man speaks only in order to be spoken to”. This is true progress.