12 Aug Episode 8: How do I manage conflict on social media?
August 12, 2020 | Michelle Reed
Last week, we talked about conflict resolution, and this is Part 2. This week, we’re going to focus specifically on conflict on social media and how to handle it. We know that we are always going to have to deal with conflict; it’s a part of our world. We know that. We also know that God gives us the tools we need to manage conflict in relationships in a way that’s pleasing to Him.
The last decade has been both very interesting and challenging with the rise of social media, a platform where initially anyone could express their views, share their pictures, and their lives with one another. I remember when I first set up my Facebook account, I thought it was great because I could keep in touch with family who lived away, and connect with friends who I hadn’t seen in years and know what’s going on in their lives. But, there are always pros and cons to every new situation, and this was no exception. When things have begun to decline in our culture, sadly, it has been very noticeable. Especially in the last couple of years, where even something that was a great idea to keep in touch and keep connected has become more of a venue for anger, hatred, and thoughtless words, and consequently lives have been devastated by this. Division has been a by-product of this lack of self-control, where people feel that they can say what they want, when they want, to whom they want, even if they’re strangers. Likely, if I met this same stranger in the street, we probably wouldn’t say the same things that we feel comfortable to say on social media.
We need to really think about how we’re going to come across. There’s a sense that the responsibility for our words has been discarded, and the positives that still show up are overshadowed by the hurtful, negative tone that seems to have poisoned all media. It’s now become very time-consuming to sift through the rapid-fire information in order to find the real story. Again, as believers in Jesus Christ, we know where this stems from. Hebrews 12:1 tells us about the sin that so easily entangles. That is true. We know we’re in a broken world; the Bible is very clear on that. We know that Satan still has influence over this earthly domain. This gloomy predicament we find ourselves in when we look around and we’re hearing negativity every day, we again have to make choices with how we’re going to handle it. But, our hope in our Saviour can also be increased, knowing that we have our eternal home to look forward to. It helps to remember that we have so much more than this temporal world platform to look forward to.
In the meantime, how do we best navigate through the conflict that we’re engaging in, either on social media or because of it? Conversations come up regularly regarding headlines, opinions, and the latest crisis. It can cause confusion anger and hostility even among God’s people, and we know that this should not be. But it does happen, so what do we do with it? For those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers, we are called on to be ambassadors for Christ, engaging others with eternity in view. When we lose our perspective of eternity and we just look at this life alone, it doesn’t do us any good. This does not mean that we don’t discuss the issues, that we don’t take a stand for things that we know, are convicted about, and biblically that we need to stand firm on. The apostle Paul did this too. But we need to treat people as valuable human beings, made in the image of God. Their souls and eternal destiny should remain a priority, not their current worldview or situation.
And I know, I get really upset too sometimes just thinking about what lies are being put out there. Do some of the current events and the rampant evil becoming more blatant every day upset me? You bet they do. So, how can I best respond in a way that is honouring to God and remembering Nehemiah 8:10, The joy of the LORD is your strength. How do I navigate that? This is what I’ve been wrestling with especially through the last few months with COVID, and some of the stuff that’s been put out there on social media is very disturbing. So, how do I navigate through? Well, losing my temper or name calling will not soften hearts and bring people to Jesus; that will not work. But, living a life that reflects joy in Jesus, because of the hope of salvation, will direct my attitude. This will speak louder than angry words.
The first chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. Throughout history, there have been dark, godless times, where the hope factor seems minute. Then, God breaks through that darkness, shining His light, doing only what He can do to bring about revival, redemption, and healing. Many times, He uses His willing- and sometimes unwilling- servants to accomplish His plan, but are we listening to Him? Are we spending time in His presence, asking for His wisdom and trusting Him for revival? Remember, we fight this spiritual battle not with the typical weapons of physical warfare, but we depend upon our God to fight for us as we- what? Just sit there and do nothing? No. As we live our lives where He’s placed us, and as we worship and obey Him. While I do what He has called me to do, I need to be worshipping Him. I need to be obeying what I’m learning. Not just following a list, but obeying Him with my heart, with everything that I am. On the days that I don’t feel like it, I can ask people to pray for me. I can ask Him to help me. I know He sees my weakness. He tells us in scripture that God knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. He’s compassionate. He knows us.
A great illustration of someone who felt inadequate, but was used by God anyway, was Moses. When God called Moses, he really didn’t want the job. In fact, he protested God’s choice. It must have appeared to him to be an impossible task. Opposing a powerful ruler and walking into a cesspool of evil. Think about that. Do we have powerful rulers today that maybe we don’t agree with? Do we have an evil society? Yep, we do. This was what Moses was called into. He was out in the wilderness. He was married, had children, had a great father-in-law. He was tending his father’s sheep, and then God called him to this very difficult situation. He didn’t want to go. Not only that, but the very people that Moses and Aaron were sent to free from slavery turned on them when it appeared that things were getting worse instead of better. So here they were. They left their comfort zone, they were trying to help, they want to free these people, but now it looks like things are getting darker, things are getting worse, and the people are starting to turn on them. That tempts us sometimes to just want to stay in the status quo because we don’t want to bring on more difficulties to ourselves; we don’t want our lives to get harder. Yet, if we ignore things, they will get worse. Sweeping things under the carpet, as we’ve discussed before, just makes things worse. The opposite is usually true: if we don’t speak up against evil, it will take over. We persevere even if there is much affliction along the way. It is so big and overwhelming, so how can we do this?
We can feel much the same way that Moses did, but God manifested His presence in various ways to show His power and absolute control in spite of the circumstances. Is He the same God that He was yesterday? Yes, He is. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. How He helped His people then, He can certainly help His people now. We have to believe that. He not only provided Moses a spokesperson in his brother Aaron, but gave him all he needed to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. God showed up and demonstrated His faithfulness to His people. His word can always be trusted whether we think the situation is impossible or not. Is God still faithful today? Yes, He is. Are we convinced that He will accomplish His will for this time as our world gets darker? Yes, we can. We can trust Him because He doesn’t change. We think that everything is so different now, what we’re dealing with, and maybe some of the circumstances are, but our God is not different. He still can be trusted.
Listen to what Moses and the people of Israel sang after they had been released from their captivity in nothing short of a miraculous way: Exodus 15:1-3 says, I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His name. And in verse 13, You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode. Notice that neither Moses nor the Israelites were taking the credit for themselves. They were fully aware that God had done this and that He alone was to be praised for the victory.
I was taught that the things in this life that are worth something take effort; they aren’t gained by the easy path. It’s the same with living the Christian life; it takes effort. That means in order to balance standing firm on truth, and also responding kindly to others, we need to do a few things in our own lives first:
- We need to spend time in the presence of God. I do not say that lightly or as a trite little Bible-sounding thing to say. The presence of God is powerful. He’s the One who breaks the chains of the bondage of sin. He is the one who transforms. He is what love is. He is We can’t have love without Him. He is love; He is compassion. So, we need to spend time in the presence of God if we’re going to be loving and compassionate in the true sense of the words to other people. This has helped me immensely when I am angered by the evil and injustice of our day, and I have been angry about it. I’ve asked people to pray for me because of feeling like I was having such a difficult time seeing what was going on. My response was not always one of kindness, I will tell you that. I know how important it is to spend time in the presence of God, to pray and talk to the Lord about it, to ask other people to pray for me, and to apply what I’m learning from His word. Those things are so important.
- We need to ask God for discernment before speaking or responding with a post, especially if we’re upset. When you see something online and it’s hurtful or it angers you, don’t just quickly post something back without thinking, without praying about it, without checking it a couple of times before you send it out there. Really, truly take into consideration what it’s going to sound like when you put it out there.
- If we hurt someone with our words, we need to be mature enough to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). We don’t have a right to hold on to unforgiveness. Because of what Christ has done for us, because of how He’s forgiven us. That is a process; it’s not easy. Again, something worthwhile is not easy. We work through it.
- Don’t blame others for our poor choices. My mother used to tell us that nobody can make you mad; it’s your choice to be mad. So, don’t blame other people. Work through it.
- Be armed with scripture to direct your personal thought life, especially when you’re overwhelmed by negativity.
- Turn off negative news, especially at night before going to bed. If you want a good sleep, don’t watch negative news before you go to bed.
- Watch the tone of our voices when responding with our views and opinions. This means guarding the tone when we write as well. If we come across as impatient or condescending, it will only fuel the fire.
- Ask good questions. In order to understand somebody else, I need to ask them questions. How do I know what they’ve been through? How do I know what’s going on in their lives right now? I need to ask good questions if I truly want to be understanding and compassionate.
- Be a good listener and a thorough reader. Be thoughtful before you respond. Listening, reading, taking the time to go through it, that will help us to have a helpful response.
- Make sure you have all of your facts straight before you jump into a conversation. Like we said last week, make sure you know the whole story.
- Give your thoughtful response once, and if the other party persists in an argumentative way, it’s sometimes best to decline a reply, or maybe try again in a private message so as not to make them feel like you’ve got them backed against a wall. I’ve had this happen to me where I’ve put a post out and somebody was very angry about it, and publicly blasting me. So then, I tried to calm it down by private messaging the person. It was okay, but it didn’t really go too far. But at least it didn’t continue to spiral out of control. Remember to pray for that person. Don’t just walk away and think bad thoughts about them. Really pray for them. You don’t know what they’re going through, and if they don’t have the Lord, here’s the other thing:
- Think about eternity. The eternity that unbelievers will be facing. That in itself, when we consider that, should help foster compassion and motivation to pray for others and ease our own anger. Sometimes, there are really frustrating things going on in our world. Really frustrating things that are happening that we really don’t personally have control over, but God does. Remember that God can move the heart of even kings. He is in control. Thinking of everything- all of this social media, everything that’s going on politically in our society, the things that people are putting out that are really declining in our culture- we have eternity to look forward to. We need to keep eternity in view so that we can try and win others for Christ.
So, remember the bottom line: people need to feel cared for, or at least respected, when communicating. Ironically, the more methods of communication we have, the more we seem to have lost the art of communication. We don’t communicate well or respectfully many times. I pray that we will all make the effort to spend time with God, apply His wisdom, and speak words of life to one another, whether in person or on social media, starting with the body of Christ. We’re a family, those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. We need to treat each other with kindness, compassion, and respect, and then pour that outwards to others around us. Psalm 19:14 says, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
1. Do others generally know and feel that I care about them?
2. Am I trusting that God will be faithful to his people in 2020, in spite of current trials, or am I living in fear?
3. Am I primarily living for eternity or for this life? Be brutally honest with yourself.
4. How should this motivate me and instruct my behaviour when I engage with others, either in person or on social media?
5. What are some ways I can keep my focus, even when I am grieved by the negativity and lies that I see posted on social media?
6. Am I spending time in the presence of God, asking him for wisdom on a regular basis to help me handle these issues?
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