How We Talk to Each Other

We live in a society where people have vastly different views on any number of issues. Israel vs. Palestine. Gay Marriage vs. Marriage as solely the union between a man and woman. Governmental vs. market approaches to health care. These and so many more issues generate passionate responses from people. The fact that our views on these issue is often informed by our religious/spiritual views adds, I think, to the emotional intensity.

We need to remember in the midst of our disagreements that how we speak to each other on matters on which we have differences matters enormously. I want to make a plea here for remembering that we are talking with and about people who are our brothers and sister…however misguided we may think they are at various times. We are talking with and about people who we are asked to love by the Christ that taught us to love even our enemies.

A couple of things prompt this. I’m a member of the Christian Left group on Facebook. It is a group I like a great deal – its views accord with many of my own. Yesterday, though, the group post something referring to one of the Republican candidates for President as a “megalomaniacal psychopath.” In the comments, someone referred to him as a “major-league dirtbag.” The day before, a friend of mine who tries very hard to help people see things from beyond their own perspective, focusing much of his efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was accused by someone of having a “Neanderthal-size hollow cranium,” who also suggested he find someone to “utilize his forceps to pull your cranium out of your sphincter.”

You have to ask what motivates such language. Certainly no one can think that talking to and about each other like that is going to persuade anyone who doesn’t already hold our view to adopt it.

But I know anger when I hear it – and I’m hearing a lot of anger (and even some hate) in how we talk to each other. An anger that threatens relationship.

Righteous anger is not a bad thing. It is actually good to be angry at injustice. But our goal has to be bringing other people to see injustice where it exists and working toward a more loving and just society. The problem is that when that anger seeps into how we talk to each other, we do the opposite – we cease to promote love and relationship. And if the anger is so out of control that it is seeping into our language with each other, it also blocks our ability to act with wisdom and love – and blocks out ability to feel love for each other.

Maybe we can all make an effort to take the advice of a wise friend of mine to remember our own occasions of unawareness and ignorance and to try to understand where the person we are talking is coming from. And to remember that the people with whom we are in dialogue are our brothers and sisters.