I used to constantly post about politics on Facebook. Anytime I saw our leaders in DC doing something that I felt was immoral or selfish or against the best interests of our most vulnerable, I would immediately take to Facebook to air my grievances. It made me feel better. It made me feel like I was on the side of the good guys.
But then it stopped being fun. Eventually I just started to feel self-righteous as I was bickering back and forth with other good, honest people who had legitimate reasons to disagree with me.
My online and everyday life became much more peaceful when I started to hold back my anger and my pen. After all, we can’t be full of self-righteous anger online one minute and then be happy, peaceful people in the real world the next minute.
And that’s what I’ve been thinking about ever since the terror attacks in Paris. For a moment, the world came together in prayer for the people of France. Sure, adding French flag overlays on Facebook doesn’t actually change anything, but it’s a reflection of who we are in the world of the web – we stand with the light, with the victims, with those who are hurting. We are using a photo to join ourselves with the currents of peace in this world.
But then over the weekend, I started to see the words of support dwindle and in their place words of argument and division arose. People (rightfully or not) were comparing the world’s response to Paris attacks to similar ones elsewhere. People (rightfully or not) were arguing about plans to admit Syrian refugees into our country.
And by Monday morning, it was if the attacks weren’t uniting us anymore but were dividing us.
And while I would never want anyone to keep their words or ideas or thoughts to themselves, sometimes I wonder if the anger isn’t playing into the darkness that causes such violence and hatred in our world.
Because in the end, we have a choice. Do we side with love or hate? With peace or anger?
Yes, self-righteous indignation is often righteous. I’m not saying some or perhaps even most of that anger isn’t merited.
All I’m asking is if the way we approach these issues brings more peace into our world and our lives or if it brings more anger and frustration and division?
We don’t change minds by screaming the loudest. We don’t win arguments by countering some else’s point. We don’t create peace by separating ourselves from people. We create change by being change, and we can’t change hate when we become angry.
So I’m not calling for people to hold their tongues. I’m just asking people to consider whether their responses and the way they frame them could be used in a way to make this world a safer place – for both people and ideas.
I probably won’t always heed this. I’m sure I’ll give in at one point over some issue and let my indignation flow through my computer screen drenched in vitriol and bile. But I hope the times I do that are far fewer than the times I use my words to console and unite.
And in the meantime, my Facebook picture will continue to feature the French flag overlay because my words couldn’t possibly offer enough sympathy or unite in the ways we need uniting and consoling, but at least my picture can show that I stand with peace.