It seems in this day and age opportunity for offense is everywhere. The world is easily offended by opinions and ideas. The ability to have a discussion where people of opposite opinions hear one another without offense or anger no longer appears to exist. Social media adds to the fire where people share their opinions more openly and with little consideration for the impact they may have. There is little responsibility attached to comments and opinions made publicly, but seemingly aimed at no-one in particular.
There’s an interesting social media trend that is based on this very same idea. It’s called “subtweeting”. The idea behind a subtweet is to “tweet” a comment about a person without addressing them directly. The person will ideally see the subtweet and assume it is about them but not know for sure. When subtweets occur the attitude is similar as that of lyrics in the song by Carly Simon, “You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you don’t you , don’t you?” The problem with this passive aggressive social media phenomenon is that it allows us to separate people from the social part of social media. We don’t care about the offended we will likely never see them in our daily lives and if we do we are not really accountable for our words. After all it was just a random post.
Here in lies the problem. We don’t see others attached to the other end of our conversations. When did we stop? We certainly post enough about the death of animals and the rights of individuals. We post plenty about folks battling illness and injustice. We post about overcoming and inspiration. We post political blurbs and current events. But are we just standing on a soap box speaking to an empty room? When we know we’re likely to offend people why do we do it? Do we care more about our right to opinion than the effect of those rights and opinions on people? The New American Standard Bible says in Jeremiah 18:12, “But they will say, “It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.” We feel justified so we stick to our political agendas and defend our causes with passion.
I read an article recently about an activist who in the 60’s, set off pipe bombs to bring attention to his cause. His cause was noble but his actions terrified people and did not accomplish what he had intended. His anger about his cause, caused people to die. As people we are losing sight of people. We see causes and differences of opinion as reason to act with hostility and self-proclaimed righteousness. We don’t see moms, dads, sons, daughters, grandparents, and grandchildren. We don’t see families and friends and co-workers. We don’t see a community. We don’t see value in human lives. We place our own value on people based off what’s important to us.
We often defend our posts passionately. Until of course we are on the receiving end of one. Suddenly we are given the opportunity to be the offended. As Christians we are supposed to be mindful of taking offense and we should of course be mindful of being offensive. Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 ESV says, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” Wait the Bible says that? Yep. It also says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11.
I wrote a blog about how what we think becomes our words which eventually become our actions. If we are thinking, speaking and posting words that de-value others, it’s only a matter of time before our actions do as well. We can change our thoughts. First we need to recognize our words have power. At the very least they have the power to cause us to live the way we do because we live according to the words we think. We all know words do hurt, they may not break bones like sticks and stones but they can break hearts and crush spirits. We can have a much more inclusive approach to building relationships by no longer defending our right to be offensive. And, no offense, we will all be more likable for it.