Maybe you’ve noticed how intolerant our “tolerant plagued” culture is nowadays.
If you say, write, or do something someone strongly disagrees with, then you’re out. Canceled. Unfollowed. Persona non grata.
People will shake their heads, maybe make a nasty comment about how selfish or stupid you are, and then write you off.
We (including me) are inclined to have strong opinions. And social media has created an in-your-face culture where we might post a comment online that we’d never have the nerve to say to a person’s face.
I recently experienced an email assault from someone I’ve never met. They don’t know me, and they have no idea who I am as a person. Not fun.
Tragically, common decency, let alone kindness, is not valued much anymore. Ask anyone if kindness matters and they will say, “Of course it matters; we truly do need a little more kindness in the world.” But then check out their Facebook page and prepare yourself for a shock.
And it’s especially challenging when you are the brunt of someone’s attack.
It hurts to be rejected.
It’s painful to be treated poorly.
Words do hurt as much as sticks and stones. (I wrote about this sad reality here.)
So, that’s the problem, but what should we do?
How should we live in times such as these?
First, remember that a gentle answer turns away wrath. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to “turn away wrath,” and certainly, it means we can choose to deflect anger rather than intensify it and make things worse. However, to turn away also means we take things in another direction. Perhaps, a kind word in response to a very unkind word will redirect another’s mind and heart.
Second, don’t get sucked into the nasty vortex of negativity. I know how easy it is to go there and return blow for blow. In my experience, however, fighting back just means everyone gets bruised. When did being mean ever help you feel better? We like to call it venting, but it’s more like emotional vomiting, which is never pretty or truly helpful. It’s better to stay on the highroad and bless those who curse you.
Next, and this is tough to do, don’t take it personally (even if it is). As I’ve suggested many times, we are all fractured. We’re all broken. We all—every stinkin’ one of us—bleed on those around us out of our pain and internal struggle.
I am trying to learn to stop and ask myself when someone explodes on me, “What is happening in them right now to cause such an ugly outburst?” Maybe they are having a terrible day. Perhaps something or someone has emotionally abused them and that’s why they’re acting like a wounded animal. What if they are reacting out of fear? Here’s a truth to remember: It’s not always about you or me.
Finally, and this next step can be life-changing; when someone draws a circle to keep you out (i.e., they try to cancel or reject you), draw a bigger circle to enfold them in if at all possible.
Choose to be unoffendable.
Choose to embrace the one yelling at you.
Choose, no matter what, to speak well of the one cursing you.
Choose to love because love is a choice, not just an emotion.
You and I can’t change others or how they treat us, but we have complete control of our choices.
So choose well, and live well.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.
On the contrary, repay evil with blessing,
because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)