Whenever you write something you must ask yourself, “How does what I say about this affect people that I know and I love?”
You must assume your friends will see what you write.
Every couple of weeks there is a huge blow up on social media. Whether it is a curriculum at public schools, a style of parenting, the gay marriage debate or something as sensitive as race relations, there is always something that spurs people into social media vendettas.
We have all been there. You see someone post something on Facebook and your first instinct is to write something snarky in the comment section. Or, if you are a blogger, you might sit on the idea for a couple of days and then blast off a 1,500-word manifesto about what is wrong with the world.
Let’s face it. Social media has given everyone a platform. It has given all of us a place to share our thoughts to the world at large. It has equalized opportunity. This opportunity to speak your mind quickly and easily is fraught with peril for leaders.
Good leaders are expected to share their opinions with the world, but how should we do this in a way that is wise?
- Don’t expect to become famous for your opinion.
There is a temptation for leaders to write something so compelling that it will go viral. In the back of our minds there’s a hope that if we are funny and blunt we can make a name for ourselves. The reason we think this is because we see people on TV do this and we think we can achieve notoriety by this approach.
The bombastic and strident catches people’s attention. However, being outrageous is rarely in line with wisdom. Instead of trying to wow people with your ‘strong take,’ take a more gentle and reasonable tone. Think of the best leaders you know. Are they writing something that is uplifting or something divisive?
- Don’t be distracted by foolish arguments.
Learn to differentiate between meaningful issues that you need to speak to and those that you should ignore. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul tells Timothy to avoid ignorant controversies. They waste time and breed fights. I find many leaders engaging in debates that waste time and do little to change their opponents. A good practice is to ask, “Will this issue last or is this controversy only going to last a moment?”
- Take time to think first and respond second.
My initial reaction to most things is to blurt out whatever is on my mind. Wisdom teaches us we need to think before we speak.
James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger….”
That means we should listen before we talk. I have learned to ask myself this when I see something on Facebook that gets me fired up. Whenever you write something you must ask yourself, “How does what I say about this affect people that I know and I love?” You must assume your friends will see what you write.
Being slow to listen means asking people for their input. During the Ferguson riots I remember going to my friends who had lived in Ferguson and asking them what they thought of the issue. I asked my African-American friends what they thought. I grew as a person and a leader when I heard the pain in their voice as they told their stories. Their hearts about the issue influenced me more than any other force.
In conclusion, I do think that there is a place for spirited, opinionated voices in culture and online. I desire to grow in my own boldness to join in the ongoing conversation about culture and Christian ethics. Following these three steps helps me be wise in sharing without dividing.