Why We Should Watch Our Online Comments (AKA How Kindness Died)

Kindness has been relegated to the back corner of a Second Grade Sunday School classroom.

Covered in a heap of unused flannel-graphs and old overhead projectors, general kindness has been banished to the island of misfit virtues. It doesn’t work in today’s age of limitless anonymity and power via social media; it doesn’t belong online. Kindness doesn’t shout loud enough over the roar of opinions or onslaught of demanding voices.

Controversy is sexy. Kindness is not controversial. Kindness is not sexy. It has a certain antiquated quality to it, like Andy Griffith or our grandparents’ house; it is a nice thought but has no place in the “modern world.” It seems infantile, dependent upon an atmosphere of perfect uniformity before it can be utilized. Instead, in a world that hardly agrees on anything, we feel we have to pick sides and dig our heels in by adding layer upon layer of socially charged Facebook posts and tweets.

And kindness does not get someone very far in argumentation, especially in the online forum where eyes cannot be met and inflection cannot be understood.

When controversial issues hit the national stage, they permeate Facebook front pages and Twitter feeds. With so much national attention and exposure, two options present themselves for the online person: post or stay silent. And the first option is much more convicting because, “If the world is talking about this, then I need to be talking about this too.”

The other option, silence, is seen as passive and malleable. “If I don’t post my opinion, people will think I’m brainwashed/irresponsible/ignorant.”

They think that convictions must be shared as the cultural landscape changes, for better or for worse; therefore, they must share it online, inevitably gutting out the kindness and leaving only the condemnation, either condemning those standing for or against an issue. Do they really want to love others or just hear their own cyber voice talk? Neither side is innocent.

The Bible is very clear that Christians should be marked by kindness, that our lives should exude hospitality, generosity, and love. The current state of online interactions seems far removed from those virtues and qualities. And it doesn’t seem to only be coming from the mean old man who sits on the front pew and yells at kids for running in the foyer. The condemnations seem to come from people who, in their “real” life, want to love people and love God. It’s not that everyone lacking kindness online also lacks it in real life, but they seem to be indulging in a misappropriation of conviction.

It is true that Jesus was not ashamed of the Gospel, nor was he afraid to take a stand on matters of morality and sin. However, he did so in the context of relationship and kindness. He went to Zaccheus’s house, resulting in Zaccheus giving back to those he stole from four times the amount taken. He saved a woman who was about to be stoned by a mob of religious leaders before telling her to go and sin no more. He sat down at a well next to a Samaritan woman, looked her in the eye, and held a conversation. She naturally turned from her sins because of the man Jesus was.

Jesus’s kindness is not a passive statement of acceptance; it is a passionate love that accepts people where they are but pushes people to become transformed into the eternal bodies they were meant to be. Jesus is not weak in his kindness; he does not say, “Do what you want, and I’ll support it.” No; what it looks like to live as a follower of Jesus is apparent in the Gospel.

Kindness loves everyone through relationship. It puts on skin and bones, walks in the same dust cloud as the rest of the human race, and lives in a way that shows eternity. The kindness Jesus modeled does not allow people to stay still but propels them to face darkness and light and make a choice.

The Gospel pattern does not point towards passive-aggressive statements of condemnation followed by “but I’m called to love, so I’ll love them.” Even if we had a perfect doctrine, that still would not yield us a license to proclaim it without reservation. The Gospel pattern is one of life and relationship; salvation and forgiveness. It looks people in the eye and brings healing. It is through kindness that people turn from sins; it is not through rogue morality.

We proclaim Jesus; we do not proclaim morals. We live relationship; we do not live dogma.

Kindness speaks loudly through its tender heart.