say what you mean, but don’t be mean when you say it.

I’ve been saying that for years. To my kids, to students and to myself, whenever the situation calls for it. It’s one of my idioms.

Ephesians 429This afternoon, I read an article about a controversial subject in which the writer gave the distinct impression that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is ignorant.

Not ignorant in an uninformed or misguided way. There was no attempt to inform or guide. The writer declared “palpable and inescapable love” for God and their neighbor, but as I read, I found myself thinking of the word contempt, not love.

The examples were taken to an extreme, seemingly in an effort to evidence the stupidity and expressions of hate by anyone who believes differently.

For the purposes of this post, the issue itself is irrelevant. I personally didn’t identify with either side of the specific issue being written about. The idea that no other (more complicated) possibilities of thought or action exist is implausible.

Issues under debate are not simple. If they were simple, there wouldn’t be so much debate.

When I read,

“And sweetie, we can call it blasphemy or we can call it heresy, hell I am happy to call it willful ignorance, but in truth it is just plain old, small-minded, narcissistic religiosity that denies the radical grace and is terrified of the incomprehensibility of God”

the word acrimonious popped into my head.

Was this language used for the sake of wit? In an attempt to shock? Was it an attempt to be humorous?

Because the post had been written by someone who professed a “palpable and inescapable love” for God and their neighbor, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect their language to be edifying.

Condescending sarcasm doesn’t open a dialog, it builds a wall. Writing and publishing something unedifying is counter-productive to bridging distance and finding common ground.

The post has been shared over 2000 times.

I can’t imagine how many comments there are out there, affirming these sarcastic words. The internet makes some people brave. Would they ever say some of these things to people face to face?

Part of me knows some of them would.

I can’t remember the last time I commented on a blog post, but today I did:

“This post is my first impression of you. I’ve never read you before, and your ‘About’ page is history and credentials, so I don’t know anything about your faith. You don’t know me, so I realize this may sound pious, but it grieves me that non-Christians might read this statement by a professed Christian and make any connection with Jesus Christ.

I realize my comment contains more quoted words by you than words by me, but after reading your Comment Covenant, I’ve got to quote you again:

‘…blatantly use such language as to cause pain in others then I will ask you to prayerfully reflect on your contributions.'”

Another commenter, responding to my quote of the Comment Covenant, said:

“As to your last statement, pointing out that words are causing pain is precisely the entire purpose of this post. If this causes others pain, I suggest they need to look at themselves and ask why?”

That post weighed heavy on me for hours today. I wasn’t exaggerating or being pious when I said I was grieved. The blatant language in the post caused me pain. And I know exactly why. My thoughts went again and again to the thought that a non-Christian would read that post and click away, thinking “If that’s Christianity, no thanks.”

And then I found myself reading a prayer I wrote in my post “four minutes with God: break my heart for what breaks Yours.”

Jesus, ever since I asked You to break my heart for what breaks Yours, I haven’t been the same. This lesson of compassion is not what I expected. I don’t know what I expected. Heartbreak hurts. And so does the knowledge that so many people vehemently hate or casually dismiss the Healer because of all the religious baggage that’s been heaped on top of You.

Lord, despite the heartbreak, please don’t ever let me become desensitized.”

I pray these words are edifying.

One thought on “say what you mean, but don’t be mean when you say it.

  1. Good post Julie! Great reminder! I am an offender of this sometimes but I am getting better about it because I am very aware of my tendency to be more frank than I should be.

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