Sunday, October 18, 2015

Passion and Action? Or Opinion and Rancor?

Facebook is a curious culture, and it has deeply changed how the world relates to and interacts with one another.  I am at times equal parts amused and appalled as I consider the ramifications of a world in which connections can be made with others across the globe, and real relationships are developed that deepen with each post shared.  The flip side is that sometimes, right in our own communities with people we are likely to cross paths with at the grocery store, the post office, or the playground, there are venomous words spewed, people called out for driving infractions and imagined slights in language that would most likely never be used if the encounter were face to face.

The most disturbing trend, for me, is the need for folks to spout their opinion on every possible subject, with little thought to how they couch it.  If one considers Facebook something akin to a virtual city street or town square, I highly doubt that any but the most uncouth would walk up to a small group of their friends (or perhaps as large a group as 300-400 people!) and fire off some political diatribe that they knew would be insulting to several present, using language that was callous and insensitive.  If we had to be present to the body language, or the hurt reflected in the eyes as our typed words essentially battered someone, we might think twice about the need to say some of what is often shared in such a wide public forum.  Our distance numbs us, it also gives us false courage.

There are pros and cons to anything, and Facebook activism is an ever growing movement, as posters "Like" issues and "Share" them, causing viral awareness to grow around an event, a cause, an action. Sometimes, this can lead to very real assistance, as it did recently with our church as we assisted Syrian refugees directly due to a Facebook connection I had with a reliable friend.  Hundreds of dollars were raised and food was put immediately into the hands of those so desperately in need.  Facebook "viralism" has its place, and can translate into very concrete help.  We have all seen that happen in one form or another, or perhaps been involved in it ourselves as a cause close to our hearts is shared.

But when our opinion, our "Share", our "Thumbs Up" on Facebook becomes all we do, and we feel as if something monumental has been accomplished because of the click of the "Enter" key, we have failed.  You see, opinions are like...well, I don't need to finish that one, we all know that crude phrase.  However, there is some truth in it, isn't there?  Anyone can have an opinion, it is the rare few who back up their opinions with action.

Do opinions really make a difference?  Sure they do, but only when someone works to bring an opinion into full bloom, meaning something changes because of that opinion.  The single best way to prove your opinion is "right" (if there even IS such a thing), is by setting the example, by living out what your opinion is.

And isn't that sort of what faith is really all about?  Isn't it about having an opinion about how one interacts with the world, both on a concrete level and a spiritual level, and then showing, by example, that their "opinion" is valid?  That their belief leads to action that sets an example of the teachings they believe in, allowing others the opportunity to see and then judge whether or not they might like to try living that way, too?

Our world is ever more opinion driven, and it feels at time as if it is ever less action driven.  Living by example is far more challenging than sharing some opinion thrown out there with every intention of riling people up, perhaps due to boredom, and with little care or thought about how it might be received.  After all, isn't everyone entitled to your opinion?

Frankly, no...nor does the world always need it.

What we need is your example.  What we need is your kindness, your thoughtfully and compassionately expressed perspective that is then backed up by action you take that proves you are living that opinion out in your life, not just subjecting others to something you are unwilling to back up.  What we need is a world changed over and over again by examples of the change you want to see in the world, by passion and action.  Passion and inaction do absolutely nothing but create friction and rancor, a nasty combination.  Lord knows we have enough of that.

I would be the first to raise my hand  and admit that there have been times in my life when I had not-so-humbly offered my opinion to others, and then not backed up with action that supported it.  However, the older I grow, the more I realize the fruitlessness of that, and maybe I am beginning to find a bit more wisdom and recognize that there is a time and a place for everything, and if I am unwilling to act on it, perhaps my mouth (and my keyboard) ought to remain silent.

Our world is not always gentle, it is not often sensitive to the tender spirits we carry around inside us.  As is our mantra at home, "Words mean things", and I believe that wholeheartedly, but it is the fact that words lead to action and example that really means something.  Words plunge us into despair, or elevate us to lofty heights.  Words encourage us to be more than we thought we could be, or can discourage us from even trying.  Opinions expressed through words are potent, but it is the responsive example that gives those words power.

Facebook is here to stay, opinions will be floated there in ever more voluminous style.  Let's hope that for some, it moves beyond the screen and into the hearts and lives of those who post.

No comments: