“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1 NLT
One thing I find difficult about social media is the tendency for people to make comments on posts, articles, or opposing views with harsh words.
Now, I realize part of the problem with this medium of communication is that there is no personal interaction. You do not face the person with whom you are engaging. You do not see their facial expression or hear their tone of voice.
Subtlety is lost.
And the annonymity of the internet almost begs a person to say exactly what is on their mind. Encouraging people to speak to strangers in a way they (most likely) would not be inclined to do if they were in a face-to-face conversation.
So, you get situations such as the one which occured the other day when some external damage caused by unknown persons had been done to an area of our church’s property. An action which caused considerable damage to the property and would take a lot of money to repair. A local television station reported the situation on their website in a news story (as our leadership wanted to encourage the perpetrators to come forward so the situation could be resolved appropriately—and they did).
And I’m sure you can figure out that a great deal of the comments shared by people reading that story were less than kind. Other people would then respond to various harsh commenters and it just kind of escalated to these crazy threads of “conversation”.
This is when one of our pastors decided to “enter the fray”.
Using wry humor (and maybe a teeny bit of snark) this pastor engaged people by using a form of “soft answer” rather than using harsh words to stir the pot even more. And the cool thing is this helped to defuse some of the more heated debates on the site and allowed this pastor to have some really thoughtful conversations with previously annoyed reader/commenters.
I love the words of Proverbs 15:1.
In this verse, we are advised to approach others gently in what might otherwise be a hostile environment or conversation.
As a rule, I have tried to stick with the “soft answer to harsh words” approach for most of my life. Pointless arguments are just that. Pointless. To be sure, I have not always succeeded in finding the gentle or “soft” answer . And the result is typical when harsh words are met with more harsh words. Very little real communication is accomplished for any party in the situation.
But when words of peace, kindness, patience, and good humor are employwed when in a disagreement with others (in any circumstance) there is a much better change the way will open for real conversation (and potential understanding) to begin, if not right in that moment then in the future. Personally, I find this a much better scenario whether it is being played out online or IRL.