Saturday, March 12, 2011

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

Image credit: Mel B. on Flickr
I came across a blog post that saddened me today. It was written in response to a post by a friend of mine. Instead of thoughtfully disagreeing with the points she made, it was just a bunch of mocking, cruel lies about her, her children and my God. Worst of all, the author was writing as a Christian. Several others who are also religious jumped right in with her, boasting in themselves and making nasty speculations. It hurt my heart.

One difficulty is that these are people I don't really know.  When I have a conflict within a relationship, I have a pretty good idea about how to resolve it.  But when I see something that I consider sin in someone I haven't even met, it is much harder.  There is no cushion of connection and context to help my stumbling attempts to express myself.  I don't know if I should seek them out and try to contact them directly or just speak to the general ideas of what they are saying. 

Another difficulty is my own anger.  When my brothers and sisters in Christ do things like this, it is hard for me to respond in love. It feels personal, somehow, when we claim to worship the same God.  My first response was to want to write a scathing defense. I wanted to return sarcasm for sarcasm, to shred their lies and to ask how on earth they can claim to follow Christ when their posts were full of derision, pride and untruths, and were designed purely to hurt others. I was angry that they were dragging Jesus' name in the mud, and that they were being so hateful to someone I cared about, who had never provoked them in any way.

This was a fresh, personal example.  But it isn't an isolated thing, of course. When I hear in the news of cases like Lydia Schatz, who was beaten to death in the name of Jesus by parents who were convinced that spanking with a rod is Biblical, I am outraged.  When I hear people flaunt their religion, and then use it to hurt anyone who is not a wealthy, white heterosexual male, I am angry that they despise the people my Lord loves so dearly.

I know that there is a time to speak out strongly. Jesus didn't sugar coat His words about the religious people of His day who heaped condemnation on others. "White-washed sepulchers." Mummy cases. Full of rotten bones on the inside. They try to look good, but beneath the surface, there is death.  Hypocrites.  The Apostles weren't exactly full of nicey-nice rainbow-flowery-kitties-and-sparkly-ponies comments, either.  And of course, if you read the Psalms, you can see that David didn't hold back, at all! 

That sounds pretty good to me right now.  I can say a heartfelt "Amen!" to verses like that.  Yet, even then, I think our motivation must be love.  And that is hard.  It is hard for me to handle these things with grace.  Even after so many years, I still don't always get that whole speaking the truth in love thing. I either want to blast them with truth or I clam up and don't say anything because I don't know how to express it lovingly. Or because I know I that I just don't have enough love to begin with.  I need wisdom.  I need grace.  I need love.  I need Jesus.

One of the best things about embracing grace is that I am realizing that it is not just for adults, or just for children, but for everyone.  It is a model for all our relationships.  Even with fellow bloggers. 

I don't have the answers yet.  I don't know how I should respond, if at all.   I wish I did.  Instead, each time I have recalled some of the barbs in their comments, I have prayed.  Prayed for grace for myself and for them.  Prayed for love to transform and fill us all.  I have also prayed for truth to set them free.  And I will continue to speak up for "the least of these", and hope that my life, words and actions demonstrate the amazing grace that has been lavished on me.


granny2five said...

Lord, help them. Lord, help ME!

Chantilly Patiño said...

I've been there so many times and I think that speaking with love and grace in times of anger is the absolute hardest thing to do! I have had a lot of trouble with this myself and struggle to defend myself and others without lashing out in from a place of anger and hurt. Nothing hurts more than seeing someone that you love attacked and I think the most important thing is to show your friend that you care and are on their side, whether you choose to respond to those individuals or not. In the end the attackers are just coming from a place of hate and that's definitely somewhere that you don't want to be, so I completely understanding you keeping silent about something that upsets you so much. I know I had a similar experience on my page and just seeing that you clicked the "like" button on my comment showed a lot of support without you saying a single word. I still appreciate that. <3

dulce de leche said...

Gracias, comadre. <3. I appreciate your encouragement and wisdom so much.

Granny2five, you summed it all up so succinctly. Exactly right.

Anonymous said...

Good points. This is interesting because I just read a bickerfest between two bloggers back and forth over another blogger/author. Beyond the fact that it's hateful, it really made me think about how Proverbs advises us to use our words wisely - "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." I know blogs are public journals in a way, but I still think all of us have the responsibility to use our words wisely and not publically trash others. If it's not ok in the spoken word, it's not ok in the written word either. Reading the bickerfest I mentioned above made me feel awkward, like I was sitting in a room while my two best friends argued and had no where else to go. It just seems like a personal argument like that where names are named and criticized has no place on a blog.

Maria said...

I understand completely. I tend to try to bite my tongue as often as possible, but I sometimes fail miserably to speak in love when I do open my mouth. It reminds me of the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke. ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Thank you mama, your words have truly touched me.

dulce de leche said...

@Virginia is for Mothers ~ You are so right. I have seen things like that play out in the past, and it is just distasteful. Respectful disagreement can be an opportunity to learn and grow, but without respect it is just ugly.

@Dionna ~ <3 <3 <3 Much love to you!

@Maria ~ That is right where I am at. Although, I don't always try to bite my tongue--I need to work on that. Ultimately, though, like in the parable you mentioned, it is a heart issue. Mine needs more love!

Unknown said...

Me encanto esto! It is, as you say, a heart issue. There is a beautiful meditation I practiced on a Buddhist retreat on loving kindness and the prayer you talk about reminds me of this. It also reminds me that the deepest, most meaningful truths at the very core of religions - like learning to respond in love, grace and humility - are the same. What I take from this is the reminder that Jesus' lesson of speaking truth in love requires me to practice loving kindness to myself and others. The action precedes the words. Abrazos