“Age of Information and Globalization, circa 1970 to the present…” my children sang gleefully as we practiced our timeline facts. This is their favorite section of timeline because it’s the shortest and their parents actually lived through almost all the events listed. Yes, I suppose we are getting old…
There are 7 different “ages” and 161 events designated in the timeline we memorize. Every time we arrive at “Age of Information,” I wonder if it should be renamed the Age of Misinformation, Age of Information Overload, or Age of Misused Information? Regardless, it’s a succinct and somewhat accurate designation. In the past, one would have to go to the library, find the relevant book to dig for the information they needed. Today, we can simply say, “Alexa, what were the dates of the Civil War?” and the answer is provided instantly.
This boon of knowledge has not come without issues.
As we’ve navigated this pandemic (along with the corresponding quarantine, economic nosedive, and educational scramble), there have been boatloads of information and misinformation served with steaming sides of anger, self-righteousness, and superiority.
“If you don’t wear a mask, you are being selfish!!!”
“You can’t make me wear a mask. This is America!”
“You want businesses to reopen?!?! How dare you?!?! You’re so greedy and selfish!! All you care about is money!”
“You want businesses to stay closed? How dare you?!?! Must be nice to still have income. All you care about is yourself!”
“The government needs to protect us from this virus!”
“The government needs to stop trampling our rights!”
“Wear a mask. Save lives.”
“Wear a mask. Die of hypoxia.”
This back and forth is all too common. (I hope you notice I included both sides of each debate). Before you burst a gasket and think I’m here to tell you which side of the fence is the “right” side, take a deep breath. The point of this post is not “who is right during the Rona Riots,” but what we as Christians should remember at all times.
Before you speak, hit send, type a message, share a post, or assume the worst about anybody, listen to the command of the Holy Spirit through the book of James:
“Know this, my beloved brothers:
let every person be
quick to hear,
slow to speak,
slow to anger;
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
James 1.19-21, ESV (emphasis mine)
This advice, given to us almost 2,000 years ago is just as relevant in the Age of Too Much Information as it was during the Roman Empire.
Be Swift to Hear
Our tendency is to be quick to speak and slow to listen because, let’s face it, listening is a lot of work.
If we’re reading a text, letter, or post, good listening involves re-reading and critical thinking.
- What is the tone based on words and/or punctuation used?
- Does this seem consistent with what I already know about this person?
- Should I ask a question to better understand their intention or force them to recognize their tone?
On the other hand, in a face-to-face conversation, listening demands concentrating on both what is being said and how it is being conveyed.
- What is their body language?
- Facial expressions?
- What questions should I ask to understand them better?
All too often, we assume we understand exactly what a person is saying and form snap judgments about their character or intentions. Let’s be careful, particularly in our present situation, before we start accusing someone of being arrogant, stupid, self-righteous, judgmental, cowardly, etcetera. Those words are whizzing around like bullets these days and can be just as harmful. Be quick to listen carefully and seek to understand what it is you are hearing before drawing conclusions and responding.
Be Slow to Speak
If you thought listening was hard, just imagine how challenging it is to stop yourself from talking! When I was a child (and when my own children were small), we used to sing a song called, “Oh Be Careful Little Eyes.”
“Oh be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh be careful little eyes what you see,
For the Father up above is looking down in love
So be careful little eyes what you see!”
The idea, of course, is that we should use caution because God is watching all that we do, whether seeing, speaking, walking, working, etcetera.
One verse is, “O be careful little mouth what you say…” It’s good advice for kids and adults. We could even add a verse or two for the older ones: “O be careful little fingers what you type,” or “Be careful little media user what you share…”
Whenever we communicate, whether it is verbal or written, we are speaking. I’ve had to really restrain myself from responding to things I’ve seen lately. The self-righteous nature of certain posts and sometimes the outright ugliness has been hard to ignore, but I am all too aware that what I say will either be ignored or create more anger.
Before responding to anyone at anytime, make sure you did some quality listening. Follow it up with some quality praying. Ask questions for clarity. Ask questions to prompt additional thought. As you prepare to respond, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is true. Will it glorify God? Does it reflect the love of Christ? If not, it’s best to remain silent.
As a wise man once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
Be Even Slower to Anger
It’s interesting that James tells us, “be slow to anger,” rather than “never be angry.” Anger, in and of itself, is not a sin. God gets angry. Jesus expressed anger during His ministry. Anger can be right and good if it is truly justified and channeled appropriately.
Unfortunately, much of our anger is not justified nor channeled appropriately.
Based on loads of listening, I think I can safely say there is plenty of anger all around. Fear of severe illness and death is morphing into anger against those who don’t seem troubled by the same fears. Financial hardship is creating resentment against those who do not appear to be struggling. Isolation is feeding the surge of mental distress.
When anger rears its ugly head, don’t speak unless you’re praying for wisdom or calm. If there is a need to respond to something, be careful and thoughtful in your response.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil…
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
There is a time to be angry, but don’t allow the devil to use your anger for harm. Allow God to transform your anger into something edifying. Speak the truth, but speak it with love. Forgiveness and mercy are preferable to wrath and vengeance.
Consider these things as you read the news, talk with people, and especially as you engage on social media. Commit these verses to your heart when you are tempted to flare up.
Remember who you are and Whose you are.
Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.