Most people are quick to admit that they rarely spend time on social media without something ruffling their feathers, and this should be expected. Research shows that posts that cause anger are more likely to be shared, liked, or commented on than any other kind of post. This is why, as Psychology Today reports, “Users with more radical opinions get larger followings, precisely because their tweets use expletives and polarizing rhetoric. More radical individuals have more social influence.” This type of behavior is virtually unavoidable online.
In opposition to this trend, Jesus has called us to live lives of meekness. It is something all believers should possess and cherish. Meekness is closely related to humility, and one of the ways it should play out in our lives is in a quiet and gentle spirit. The perfect example of this is Jesus himself. The sinless Lord of Righteousness takes on flesh, dwells among sinners, and he is gentle and humble of heart. As seen in his own life, there is a place for righteous anger, but regular outrage is not the proper demeanor of the Christian.
Jeremiah Burroughs once said, “Learn to set a high price on the quietness and sweetness of your spirit.” In practicing the beatitude of meekness, this means we should guard our peaceful demeanor and strive against being stirred to anger over trivial and unimportant things.
Indeed, many of the topics on social media that raise our passions are not trivial, but the format in which it is being communicated is. The people or tweets that move us to outrage are people who have as little influence on the outcome of a social debate as we do. Our anger in this situation will almost always be in vain as it will have no consequence in their lives or the culture at large.
Burroughs goes on to say, “Oh, the poor trifles and toys that men and women cast away their quietness for!” Then he gives us an analogy that drives it home. Imagine you have a ball of pure gold. It is a treasure you keep in hand because it is so precious to you. Now imagine that someone comes along and throws dirt on you. How foolish would it be to throw your golden ball at them in retaliation. Yet, we do this repeatedly.
Someone says something online that we find offensive, and we retaliate with a harsh word, a quick jab, or a joke at their expense. What we have done at that moment is allow them to steal our blessing of a quiet and gentle spirit to pay them back for their worthless words.
The temptation to throw away our meekness is a spiritual battle that tends to rage every time we are on social media. It also happens in many other contexts in our lives. The world does not understand meekness. Like all of the beatitudes, it is upside-down compared to cultural standards. Most people believe the way to be happy is to demand what you want through a spirit of proud agitation. Only then will you find the blessed state you seek. Jesus tells us the exact opposite.
I am not writing this to tell you that you should never be on social media. However, if you find your time online stirs up passions and moves you from a spirit of humble quietness to one of contemptuous frustration, realize what you are throwing away. Blessed are the meek. Is that blessing something worth casting aside because someone said something offensive online? We must learn how to control our anger, or we need to stay away from the temptation.
There is a time and place for righteous anger, but rarely is the frivolous nature of social media worthy of it. Finally, never forget, many of the people who stir our passions online are people like us who were moved to anger and lashed out because of other radical tweets they saw online. Maybe our enemy is more like us than we realize.