Build Bridges–Not Barriers

I think I suffered friendship PTSD this past weekend.

At least that’s what a friend Lisa Jo Baker calls it. She recently wrote a book “Never Unfriended,” and has spent thousands of hours being held hostage to the worry of friendships.

If you’ve never experienced gut punches from careless comments and words, then you didn’t experience the terror of middle school as an awkward preteen or the attacks, rants and riots before and after the election.

Words have the power to build up and tear down. Words have the ability to initiate change, affect a community or speak truths. It’s one of the reasons why I love my word-weaving job.

Words have the ability to create hope, and they have the ability to wound someone so deeply, they may never make it back.

For this very reason, I teach my three children the wielding the tongue is not for the faint of heart. And it’s something I’m mindful of at all times, especially on social media.

Little did I realize gnashing of teeth would ensue when I posted my delight about the introduction of vouchers for private education. We have kids in both Kearney Public Schools and at Faith Christian School.

Imagine my surprise when teachers, parents, grandparents and employees sent private emails and posted snarky, rude comments. But it wasn’t just this issue, some attacked us for asking about reviews of the new box office movie “The Shack” or dismay because Disney has a gay moment in the new movie “Beauty and the Beast.” Others lashed out about being narrow-minded as a Bible-believing mother.

So here’s the thing, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts with outrage and genuine concern about the simplest things turning into a debate — whether it’s gay Disney, arguments of whether “The Shack” is biblical or new age, pro-vaccination versus anti-vax, private education vouchers, or what dishwasher you want to buy. It makes me question the motive. Is it because we want to control the outcome that we forget only God can move into the spaces and hearts our opponents?

Are we so blinded by the frustration and anger in our own lives that we forget there is a real human person on the other side of that screen?

Have we forgotten that there are real people with real lives who have experiences different than our own?

Would the words dripping with venom leave our tongues if we were sitting down to have dinner together? Are you listening to the tone of your words or how your actions are perceived? Would you approach it differently?

A friend wrote to his friends and family: “I want to challenge everyone to be careful of what we say and how we say it. We should ask, ‘Are the things I say building bridges between me and people? And therefore between people and Jesus?’”

Many times, the way that these issues are talked about on Facebook don’t build bridges, but instead build barriers.

Facebook is a wide audience for what you say and how you say it. Are you communicating your love for them? Are they experiencing grace through your words? It’s OK to hold to different opinions; in fact, it’s encouraged, but the words you speak about it matter. They can bring people life and they can further people’s pain or create tension.”

Can we be bridge builders or will we use the power of the tongue to tear another person down?

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