When I was young I had a pretty bad temper. “Seeing red” was a figure of speech that I understood completely.
Back then, we also did our family fighting with really loud voices. When it went on between others and myself, it was cathartic, when it was other members of my family with each other, it tipped over into stressful. I remember one time going into my room, slamming the door and plugging my ears so tightly that I hurt myself, all because of an argument in which I was not involved.
It was for that reason that I began looking for “fixes,” or, more appropriately termed, “diffusers.” Jokes are my favorite- ones that make me the fool usually work out the best because there’s no possibility for things to be taken wrong. Every once in a while I found actual wisdom that calmed things. Not so much like Solomon, but more like the time I encouraged my sister to not stay stubbornly in the car at McDonalds because she’d be hungry later when her anger had cooled.
As an adult there is really never any yelling. I still sometimes get the urge to slam doors, but if I notice the urge in time, I can diffuse it by calling myself out as passive aggressive…
The truth is that I hate fighting. “Harmony” is up there on my list of strengths and because of my strong need to have us all just get along, I am also up for conflict when its purpose is resolution.
For this reason, the internet can be a very dangerous place for me emotionally. Before the internet, mud slinging was mostly for politicians or other famous people. Us peons had to either just talk behind the backs of our co-workers, or confront them directly with our issues. But now? Now we can shout our heads off in Times New Roman (or, more preferably, sans serif) and we say whatever we want with infinite space to protect us from flying fists.
We say whatever we want because we’re right.
This funny thing happened earlier today. I was sitting in a public, semi-secluded space studying the book of Job (I’m teaching it in a few weeks). I was marveling at how Job’s friends are so much more concerned with being right than they are about the massive grief their friend is feeling. Listen, friend, you just lost everything, but clearly it’s because you’re a dirty, rotten sinner. Never mind their faulty theology, let’s just look at their desperately flawed comforting skills. It seems that Being Right has overruled loving relationships for centuries.
Elbow deep in notes and thoughts about Elihu and Leviathan, two male students approached me with a question. “We should ask her, she’s SBS staff” (SBS stands for School of Biblical Studies, for which I am indeed staff). They had a question about gender roles that, after it was asked, I said seemed more about preference than morals. This led to broader conversation about gender roles and while other students gathered around, many began to agree with each other that women should not be teaching men.
Not only did I find this conclusion funny (since the conversation began with two guys asking a woman to help them understand, i.e., teach them on what they considered a Biblical issue) but I also found it disconcerting. It wasn’t so frustrating that they expressed views I don’t agree with, because that is bound to happen, but the way things escalated from conversation to a kind of frenzied opinion pushing reminded me of Job’s friends. And not just Job’s friends, but you know- the internet.
Only in person.
By this point in the “discussion” I had dropped out. During more intense conversations I’ve gotten into the habit of asking God for his opinion on what I should or should not say. The more confused or frustrated I am, the easier this is to remember to do because, as you’ll remember, I hate fighting. What I felt like he was telling me tonight was that this was not my argument. Two more minutes of silence on my part revealed that even without my opposing view, the natives were getting hostile.
It’s not that I think we should all agree, or that we shouldn’t express disagreement. It’s this- what outcome are we hoping to achieve? What good are we doing with the words that we say or type? I will freely admit that every day finds me saying at least one thing motivated by self-promotion. But if I take a second to really look at the person or people I’m talking to, I am reminded of a much deeper and more lasting motivation…
You know what I’m going to say, right?