Daily Proverbial, 6 January 2012

Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. Proverbs 29, verse 8.

I’m one of the unwise men. I’ve discussed here before that I debate online. The discussions are spirited and lively, and in their own way they’re healthy. It isn’t a good thing for one to live a life being polarized, so I think it’s healthy to hear opposing opinions from people you trust. Yet I find myself getting angry at the futility of our debates. We don’t seem to solve anything, and as I see it, my friends are advocating some views that are (in my opinion) wrong and insupportable, maybe even indefensible. They could (and likely would) say the same thing about me even as we try to keep emotion out of rebuttals; facts can be debated, emotions are simply bluster. It’s disappointing and sometimes even discouraging.

I find myself getting stirred up by the mockers on the other side, good men who often resort to opinion instead of fact, emotion instead of reason. When the debate resorts to name calling or invective, I usually back away even as I find myself wanting to respond in kind. It is all too easy to sink to the lowest level and react and respond. That isn’t a Godly thing to do. So here’s a bit of full disclosure: I haven’t been very Godly in how I’ve debated. I HAVE sometimes sunk to that level. Often, I’ll barrage someone with facts, sometimes even so many that I could be looked at as a bully. When they respond with facts, it’s a good debate. When the name calling or opinions start, though, the debate sinks and it simply feels like we’re slewing garbage.

Seems like we all forget that mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. I can’t speak for my friends; I’m only responsible for me. Me, I know I’ve been the pot-stirrer who sometimes reacts unwisely.

Is it just me or does it seem impossible to watch anything on the news today without seeing the reporting of emotions and opinions versus the just the facts? Why do we allow our government and our media to divide us so? More than that, because our government and our media do this, what do we intend to do about it? Perhaps the better question, however, would be ‘what would God want us to do about it?’

You know the answer.

That explains why I’m unwise. All too often, I resort to debating, to trying to win the arguments I think are worth fighting for, and then I usually end up sinking into the mire when someone starts slinging the hash. I hate that feeling, I really do. More than that, though, I hate to lose, to not have the last word. That isn’t constructive. How do I stop it?

Yes, I know the answer. It’s the one I have all too often disregarded. It’s tough to do what God wants us to do. It usually means denying ourselves or turning away from things we think we want to do. Changes of behavior are always in order, and sometimes it means keeping my mouth shut when what I really want to do is throw the words back to prove, yet again, just how dreadfully wrong my friends are about some very important issue.

That isn’t a Godly thing to do. It makes me into the mocker who stirs up the city instead of the wise man who turns away anger. The wise man learns that some things aren’t worth the argument, that mockers aren’t worth the time. Wiser men than me turn away from the fights and don’t get roped into them. Wiser men let words and silence speak for themselves. Mockers fall back on, well, mocking, using emotion, harsh words, and conjecture to mock instead of build up. Mockers stir up emotions and reactions in others, and do it for reasons that aren’t Godly either.

Guess I’m guilty of that from time to time as well. The trick is realizing this and these other things while not beating one’s self up over them time and again. We should be contrite and own what we do, but we should also walk away from guilt when it wells up and not let it or others rule us with it. If we don’t, we become the city in which the mockers stir up discord.

So, once again, I’ll beg the forgiveness and patience of my friends and my God, and resolve once more to do better. In this time when opinions are strong because the stakes are very high, it’s natural that we’ll want to air those opinions. Perhaps that’s not always what God would have us do. Perhaps there is a better way. Here’s to hoping I learn that lesson and remember it more in the days to come.

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