Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vitriolic is as vitriolic does

So, Adele flips off the cameras because she was cut off while thanking people for an award she received. Tweets exclaim that anything but the iPhone sucks and if you don’t have one you’re a loser. Facebook friends decry one another's political views as idiotic, racist, stupid, insane, and so on. An employee shoots his boss during a performance review. Politicians slam their opposing parties as demonic, vile, Nazis, liars, Commies, crazies, and much worse. And we curse and yell at anyone in traffic around us who is doing something we don’t like.

Oy! Talk about behaving badly. Yes we are.

There’s something wrong with us when our automatic reaction is flipping the bird, pulling a gun, or slinging insults when we don’t get our own way or others disagree with us.

It amazes and saddens me to see Facebook friends who I know to be smart and usually kind people, throw insulting invectives, too often obscenity-laced, at others who disagree with their view on things, whether it’s politics, religion, fashion, food, music, or whatever.

It’s sickening and disheartening. I’m tired of it.

Defined by our own words

We are what we speak. Or do. Or write. Or think. Jesus said it plainly in Matthew 12:33-37:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Okay, so Jesus insulted the Pharisees by calling them snakes. Before you think this justifies your bad behavior, let’s look more carefully at what’s going on:
  • First, he was Jesus and he had a clear view of people’s hearts, unlike us. While we can guess what’s going on inside a person, Jesus knew (and knows).
  • Second, in the context of the passage, the Pharisees were questioning Jesus’ authority to do what he did in front of their eyes – heal a man.
  • Third, Jesus wasn’t hiding behind Facebook; he was standing right in front of them and was commenting on their behavior in that moment.
  • Fourth, Jesus didn’t sink to their level, but rose above it through his deeds and words. He set the standard for right behavior.
  • Fifth, Jesus put the onus of the issue back on the Pharisees (and us) stating that the kind of person we are will be evident by the life we live and the words we speak now and in the future (he wasn’t referring to the past).
If we are saying evil things about others, by this standard, it’s because we are evil. If we are being disrespectful of others' views, we are not respectable.

Fodder for the fireplace

When we insult another person or group, we are being insensitive, intolerant, insolent, rude, and contemptuous. We are demeaning them. And we're not doing much for ourselves, either. We’re being a bad tree bearing bad fruit.

What happens to bad trees?  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19, NIV).

Ouch! In other words, our cutting others down will result in our being cut down and burnt up.

So how can we be good trees and bear good fruit and avoid the fire?


Live a life of love in the Spirit, grow in the knowledge of God, and be strengthened in the Lord (see Colossians 1:5-14).

James puts it this way:
“My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:12-18, NIV).
Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party, black, white, Asian, moderate, left, right, centrist, Christian, atheist, agnostic, on Facebook or Twitter, on TV or in the cafe, open mic or closed mic, in private or public; whomever, wherever, and whenever, vitriolic talk and the thinking behind it needs to be replaced with kindness, graciousness, and civility. Especially among those who are Christ followers.

We can disagree, but let’s do it without damaging one another or ourselves. To borrow an old adage, when you flip the finger at others, you’ve got three and a thumb flipping back at you!

Boorishness is unbecoming. Let’s be nice, not belittling. Then we'll be better.


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