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Are You Addicted to Outrage?

  • Scott Slayton
  • 2016 6 Sep
Are You Addicted to Outrage?

Colin Kaepernick and the Perpetual Outrage Machine

Most days I check the Facebook trending topics because I’m interested to see what people are talking about. Saturday morning [August 27, 2016] I looked and saw the name of San Fransisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I assumed he had been injured in a preseason game, but I was wrong. The story told how he refused to stand for the National Anthem and said he did so as a protest for the injustice black people face in America.

The reactions to Kaepernick’s protest were swift, hostile, and predictable. “How can a millionaire say he’s being oppressed?” “This is Colin Kaepernick’s oppressed upbringing” read the headline over a photo of a large house. Then the predictable counter attack came next. “Colin Kaepernick is right and we need to listen to him.” “The Star-Spangled Banner celebrates the death of slaves.”

By the middle of the week our perpetual outrage machine will have moved on to something else and we will all forget why we were so mad about Colin Kaepernick. Therefore, this post is not about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem. Instead, it is about what this story and a thousand others we could bring up say about us.

We have become a people who are addicted to outrage. Every day, we pick up our phones and are immediately bombarded with a thousand headlines yelling, “here’s something for you to be angry about!” Like pigs going back into the slop, every day we fall for the controversy de jour and works ourselves into a tizzy over something said or done by someone we don’t even know.

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This is not a liberal or conservative problem because every day we see outrage from both sides. How many more posts can we write about how awful Donald Trump is? How many more links are we going to generate about Hillary Clinton’s scandals?

I know the answer to my last two questions. People will keep writing articles to incite our anger as long as we keep clicking and sharing.

For followers of Jesus, the glory of God and our personal joy are at stake in how we respond to controversial news stories. Therefore, we must give thought to how we respond and speak when these issues arise. We would do well to listen to the wisdom from the book of Proverbs and apply to our thoughts, speech, and attitudes about controversy.

Fiery Anger Never Produces a Good Result

“A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” Proverbs 14:17

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“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Proverbs 15:18

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Proverbs 20:3

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In speaking to his son, Solomon shows him the foolishness of a hot temper. A person with a hot temper will act foolishly and speak foolishly. Anger blinds our reasoning and keeps us from calmly thinking about the best way to respond to a difficult situation. This leads to our doing and saying things we will ultimately regret. In addition, no one will grow in respect for us or want to hear what we have to say when we lose our tempers.

We also must evaluate whether what we are getting angry about should actually be arousing our anger in the first place. Checking the trending topics on social media shows that we consistently get angry over the opinions of people that we never have to encounter in real life. If a famous singer, athlete, or movie star states a controversial opinion, what effect does that have on you? Does their opinion impede your ability to live your life or provide for your family. The answer is usually “no,” yet we work ourselves into a state of frustrated anger because of something someone said that we don’t even know. There are things that should make us righteously angry, but there are fewer of them than you think.

Angry Words Never Produce Changed Hearts

“With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” Proverbs 11:9

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12

“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” Proverbs 11:17

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

“By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.” Proverbs 14:3

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” Proverbs 18:6-7

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

Our words have tremendous power to do good or to cause harm. When we speak in anger and frustration, we normally cause the latter. Notice everything Solomon says here about speaking with rashness and cruelty. When we speak angry and hurtful words we destroy our neighbor and ourselves. When we speak quickly and forcefully without understanding an issue, we demonstrate great foolishness and folly. Our angry words gain no friends and no hearing for the Gospel, instead they make enemies as the words that come from our mouths provoke anger and hatred in response.

Followers of Jesus, please hear me on this point, our great task is to spread the Gospel of Christ so that men and women might believe and then grow into full maturity in the faith. Because we have this great aim, we want to be heard by our friends, neighbors, and culture. They will not listen to what we have to say about the grace of God if our usual talk is filled with anger and vicious character assaults on other people. Jesus said “out of the heart the mouth speaks,” and a heart that continues to produce harsh and angry words will have a difficult time conveying the wonderful truths of the Gospel.

A Cool Spirit and Kind Words Open Doors

“With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” Proverbs 11:9

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:27

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23

Since our great ambition is to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in both word and deed, what will be the kind of speech that will open doors for speaking with people with whom we disagree? Solomon commends gracious and kind words to us in his instructions to his son. Words which flow from a heart that understands grace have the capacity to give life to the people with whom we are talking. Kindness disarms objections and builds bridges so that people are willing to listen to what we say. Graciousness, humility, and kindness pave the way for Gospel witness, while harshness and anger will create craters we can never cross.

Gospel witness and perpetual outrage cannot coexist, so we must find a way to dive out of this vicious cycle of fear and loathing. It begins with giving thought to the amount of media we consume each day and what this media is trying to produce in us. Most websites, radio talk shows, and TV talking heads don’t care if you agree with them or not, they just want you angry enough to keep reading, listening, and watching. If you know that this is the goal, then you can start thinking about the headlines you read and hear with greater care.

We also must give great consideration to how we respond to what we hear about the world around us. In Proverbs Solomon urges us to ponder the path of our feet and to give great thought to how we respond to the foolishness we encounter. Instead of flying off the handle, ask if this is something worth getting angry about. Ask if it is worth you sharing it and weighing in. Ask if it will generate conversations that can lead to the Gospel or if it will lead to alienating people over something that really doesn’t matter.

In a few days Colin Kaepernick will disappear from the trending topics and another controversy will take his place. In the meantime, may God grant us the grace to know when we should speak, and when we should stay silent.

This article originally appeared on Used with permission.

Scott Slayton serves as Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL and writes at his personal blog One Degree to He and Beth have been married since 2003 and have four children. You can follow him on Twitter@scottslayton.

Publication date: September 6, 2016

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