The house was still dark and quiet when I woke up to the sound of rain. Joel was softly breathing, still deep in his sleep. I carefully slid myself out of bed, put on my faithful worn jumper and tiptoed into the kitchen. The gentleness of the morning lingered in the air, and I breathed in the fragrance of the coffee, rich and dark. I wrapped my hands around the cup, and I sat, still, dwelling in this moment of peace and quietness.
Recently, I have been thinking about noises. We live in a fast-paced, microwave-it society. Everything is just a click away, and news travels faster than light. Everyone has an opinion, and we are quick to defend what we stand for, sometimes with unfiltered thoughts. With the conveniences of technology, we are wired and equipped to do multiple things at the same time: talking to someone while watching the news on TV and replying to a text message on the phone (Funny enough, even my husband who claims that he cannot multitask constantly does this).
I recognized that the world has changed; and what we have definitely make our lives so much easier. What would Joel and I have done during months apart if the only way to communicate was a snail mail? Or how would I keep in touch with my family in Thailand in the real-time, face-to-face conversation without Skype or Facetime? There are benefits from the digital technology, but it also has its own pitfalls. With information easily accessed on the internet, we learn more about issues that go on in the world almost firsthand. We hear about war in Syria, election in America, nuclear program in North Korea and the refugee crisis in Australia. We also hear about gay marriage protest, pro-choice campaign and euthanasia movement. We pick our interests and we choose what we stand for, based on our personal belief and life background.
However, in light of the benefits of discussion and debates, what I see these days is how entitled we are to our opinions. What I miss is the respect shown towards one another on the internet and, sometimes in person. I have heard people say, “You don’t need to respect the other’s opinion if it’s wrong,” or “This is my opinion. You either take it or leave it,” without being intentional about taking into consideration of what the other person is saying. This readiness to disregard the other person’s views is alarming. It forces us to shout louder so someone would hear and listen to what we have to say. Tragically, what I see afterwards is rude comments directed to strip the person off of his dignity or people being oppressed to keep silent because they are not loud enough.
I am troubled by what I see. There has to be a balance between the freedom of speech and respect. To be anti-politically correct, “just say it for what it is”, is not going to cut it. What is the purpose of expressing our opinions? Is it to stand for the truth? If we answer yes, then we had better define what truth is; and whether our opinions align with the truth. Often, we jump into hot debates (a better term should be “argument”) because the media or the majority of people tell us that such and such is right or wrong; and we put forth our two cents so passionately that we have forgotten why we started in the first place.
I think what we miss today is humility. Having been raised in Thai culture, we are taught to listen to the elders. Even though I realized that some elders do not act worthy of respect and their opinions are sometimes useless (and we can be hypocritical with our “respect” towards them), the practice of listening has its merits when we enter into the wider world. When we listen, we do not only gain knowledge about what is being spoken, but we get an insight and understanding about the speakers, what they are like, where they come from, and how they draw the conclusion. Listening allows us to be less judgmental and more understanding.
The scripture from James 1:19-20 from the Amplified Bible makes it clear,
Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us]
James wrote this letter to the Jews who were dispersed among the Gentiles. So his message was directed to the followers of God. In the midst of troubles and challenging life circumstances, James instructed these people to live a life that would reflect the glory of God, one of which is through being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. For Christians, the standard of our lives is Christ’s love that compels us to do the impossible, including giving up our own “right” so that others may come to know His love. This may simply mean not having to win an argument, or carefully choosing words to speak, or deciding whether to say something or keep quiet. We do not always have to be right, if the desire to be right comes from pride.
I am not saying we should tolerate untruth or lies. Truth needs to be proclaimed. But often what we speak may not always be the truth. It is an opinion that is perhaps based on truth, but our own views nonetheless. Therefore, it is our responsibility to present our opinions as accurately and fairly as possible while remembering that others may view it differently, simply because we wear different “glasses”, and we just have to respect that what the other person says has values. It may go against what we are wired to do nowadays because of our entitlement to a lot of things, but for Christians, there is a higher purpose. Christ did not die so we can battle in war of words. He died so we can be reconciled to God. He died so we can live as a witness of His love. If what we say is not edifying the body of Christ, perhaps we should take a vow of silence for a break.
A friend of mine once said to me, “Mink, I look forward to the time when we are old, when we both will sit on rocking chairs with a cup of tea in our hands and recall all the things we have done in our lives.” I still remember his words because it paints a picture of simplicity and of peace. One day, we will be old and our voices will be just whispers in the wind. One day we will die and no one will care whether or not we vote for the legalisation of gay marriage or euthanasia. What people will remember is how we treat them; how we show them respect, honor and dignity. The world will not remember our words. They will remember our deeds.