There’s a saying I’ve been hearing when I watch the news and seeing on social media that’s quite concerning.
When a public figure – politician, pastor, or actor – uses harsh, brash language to “tell it like it is,” the response I often see in their defense is “They’re just saying what we’re all thinking.”
What is said usually takes the form of a rant against someone or something they see as harmful or evil. There is much to be angry about in this fallen world. And it feels good to rant, to let loose a word or two to express our immediate feelings about what we see and hear around us.
A rant feels empowering, like you’re giving another person a “piece of your mind.” But what is a rant and what purpose does it serve? A rant is emotions let loose through language. Uncontrolled outbursts of anger and frustration. Are we really in control to express what we truly want to say when we are controlled by volatile emotions?
How many times have I regretted the words I chose when arguing with my wife, or family and friends, or strangers online? How many times have I looked back at what I said in past arguments and thought, “I didn’t really mean what I said.”?
I think that is why I think and write so often about the words we use and the way we use them. As a Christian, if I am to take seriously the command to be kind found in Ephesians 4:32, then thinking about how I talk and act with others should be often on my mind.
That’s why praising a person for “saying what we’re all thinking” so concerns me. Scripture calls us to take every thought captive and to be sober-minded and watchful over our words and ways.
It’s easy to speak before I think, to react from pure emotion instead of taking time to find words that better express my thoughts or take my thoughts captive to see if what I was about to say was really what I wanted to say.
Though I disagree with friends and family about several hot-button cultural and political and theological issues of our day, if I desire to fulfill the desire to be kind, I am going to take the time to hear their side, to understand what they are trying to say and why they are trying to say it, and why they sincerely believe the way they do. Then I am ready to respond with words of my own.
Is it helpful if I constantly interrupt my wife when she’s telling me something I disagree with? Will it change her mind if I won’t let her get a word in? Will I win anyone over to my side by insulting their intelligence or beleaguer them or try to signal how virtuous I am?
Now, anyone who has known me knows I do not live up to this. I constantly struggle. I love interrupting Jesse when she’s trying to explain something in an argument. I love getting the last word. I love proving that I’m right. But, I trust that part of God’s working in and through me for his good pleasure includes instilling patience in me, and helping me to have more self-control and restraint when engaged in an argument.
Kindness and patience win over more than belligerent insults.
“With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
And a soft tongue will break a bone.” – Proverbs 25:15.
If I really want others to believe the way I do or think my way about the various controversies, local, national, and global, patience and a soft tongue win more minds and cut to the heart of the matter than angry, uncontrolled rants. One by patience seeks to persuade and help others. The other seeks self-satisfaction.
The Lord has given us the way to reason and persuade with one another. Control the tongue. Take thoughts captive. Treat one another in love.
Lord-willing, in a subsequent column I would like to reflect on what the nature of what kindness is and why the modern notion of what it means to be kind has strayed from the biblical understanding of the strength and self-control it takes to be kind and loving in an unkind and unloving world.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3). He can be reached at email@example.com