You can use your voice to point out the ignorance and foolishness of the person on the other side of the issue, or you can use your voice to build healthy, productive relationships to actually resolve the issue. But you cannot do both.
I suppose it is misplaced hope on our part. Or maybe it is just poor planning. Probably both. But somehow, we all-too-often fall into the social media trap of thinking we can help solve a problem by sufficiently belittling the person(s) on the other side of the issue. We see a problem in our culture (racism, abortion, immigration, school shootings, etc.) and we determine to add our voice to the political screaming in our own efforts to… what? Help solve the issue? Is that what we think we are doing? Helping?
That strategy fails on so many levels and for so many reasons, one blog post could never list them all. But let’s start with this observation: I scream about the foolishness of the people on the other side of the issue because that problem-solving strategy has worked so very well in all the other relationships in my life. If you read between the lines of snark in that observation, you recognize a simple truth: solving problems collaboratively requires relationship building, and name-calling is, well, counterproductive to that goal.
The truth is, our current culture is the best evidence we have ever seen in our lifetimes of why the political process is so terribly inefficient at solving problems. When winning the next election (for me or for my party) becomes my highest priority, then the very problems I have been elected to solve will continue to take a back seat to that priority. Moreover, part of my strategy necessarily must be to make the other side look as bad as possible. This, of course, is the single biggest reason our political processes frustrate all of us so much.
There’s a story in the Bible about a king who just did not grasp that truth. He was the king of Syria. He had successfully bullied Israel with various raids and attacks, thanks in part to his “general”, named Naaman. But when Naaman was diagnosed with leprosy and the only solution to that illness required working collaboratively with the king of Israel, it presented a problem. The king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel with the usual “letter from the king” diplomacy. It said, “This is Naaman. I am sending him to you so you can cure him of his leprosy.” The Bible says:
And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” 2 Kings 5:7
Surprise, surprise. Imagine that. The King of Israel did not trust the King of Syria who had been raiding him. I suppose the burning question in my own mind is: in what universe would that attempt at problem-solving ever be successful?
And so, we have to ask ourselves some hard questions as well, especially before we forward that next meme or article or video addressing the issue du jour. Is my post designed to belittle the other side? If so, how exactly is that going to help resolve the issue? Am I forwarding something from a source I already know nobody on the other side of the issue trusts? If so, why? How is that helpful? I may say to myself, “I’m just trying to share facts…trying to set the record straight.” Yes. That’s what the King of Syria said to himself.
But thinking more strategically isn’t all that difficult. I just have to chose the right goal. If I choose the political solution, and fill my social media posts with messaging designed to point out the ignorance or the maliciousness or the “evil” of “those people” on the other side of the issue, I am just adding noise to the chaos. I am not really seeking solutions to the problem. And, by the way, the trail of broken relationships in my own life are probably not a coincidence.
We each just have a decision to make. We have to decide how we want to use our voice. Do I want my voice to be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution? If the latter, how will I use my voice today to actually build relationships that may one day be helpful to solve problems collaboratively?
I’ve made my decision.