As a side effect of our Western love affair with personal autonomy, American emotions have become increasingly fragile. A few months ago, I heard someone jokingly say, “Good morning, America. What can I be offended about today?”
Social media has given every person a public platform. But instead of using our platforms for culture-cultivation, our sin-scarred hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) are naturally inclined to use them for ventilation.
Without a larger context, everything we write/post on social media is easily distorted by minds inclined toward offense. Consequently, we exercise our foolishness daily when we reject understanding and empathy in favor of showing off our own opinions (Proverbs 18:2). In so doing, easily offended emotions erect and maintain impenetrable walls around our garrisons of personal pride (Proverbs 18:19). Being offended ceases to be a circumstantial reality and, instead, becomes a way of life.
As part of the progression, it has become noticeable that this social media culture has affected the way we feel about all things said, done, or even proposed. We come to immediate conclusions about what we hear or see.
Sometimes our conclusions are formed before the opportunity for offense even rises. We have already decided in our hearts that if a certain name, hashtag, or catch phrase appears, we will automatically be offended. For example, how do you immediately feel when you read the following words: Trump, Obama, national anthem, #blacklivesmatter, #alllivesmatter, socialism, Benghazi, LGBTQ.
The idea is not to completely remove objective thinking when a hot-button term is mentioned, but rather to recognize our emotional predispositions and choose wisdom over foolishness; reason over futility; cultivation over ventilation.
Choosing Another Way
The tongue/fingers are so closely connected to the heart. Jesus Himself said that “from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45). King Solomon gives timely insight to the issue as well:
“Don’t give your heart to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)
We give our hearts to what people say when we choose offense over understanding. This may surprise you, but your emotions are your responsibility. You may or may not be immediately offended by what someone says or types. But how you respond to that offense is entirely up to you. When we respond by reciprocating offense, we perpetuate futility. When we respond respectfully, we cultivate understanding.
And let’s not forget Solomon’s reasoning behind refusing to give our hearts to what people say: every one of us is guilty of the various evils for which we are condemning others. Consider Solomon’s immediately preceding thought: “There is certainly no one righteous on the earth who does good and never sins.” The offended personality is built on a false pretense of self-righteousness. It is evidenced in an inability and/or unwillingness to hold the tongue.
Living it Out
Thankfully, the Gospel of Jesus Christ redeems the heart (Philippians 4:7), the tongue (Ephesians 4:24-32), and the fingers (Romans 6:12-14). Christians must be careful to daily give their hearts over to Christ, and not give them over to what other people say. If I am to win the battle against perpetuating futility and to, instead, cultivate understanding, then every heat of the moment, knee-jerk reaction to say “I’m offended” must to be replaced by the truth of the gospel: “I’m redeemed.” Being born again gives Christians the countercultural ability to evaluate every thought and every word toward cultivation instead of ventilation.
Every word is powerful. Every word comes from the overflow of the heart.
What is your heart full of?
Who is it given over to?
And how are your words bearing this witness?
Dr. Tony Wolfe is the Director of Pastor|Church Relations at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has served churches in areas of Music/Worship, Education, and the Pastorate. He has also authored several books including Going Social, Mile Markers, Be Encouraged; for Pastors and Wives, A Deacon On Purpose, and more. Tony and his wife Vanessa were married in 2001 and have two sons—Ethan and Aaron. They love to fish, golf and cheer on their LSU Tigers every football season.
A version of article originally posted on Tony's website