Build people up - or tear people down. Your choice.
I have been reminded of this several times lately in choices I have been confronted with. One stark moment was a few weeks back when we here in New England were being hit by an incredibly unseasonably cold spell. On Facebook, my newsfeed was full of friends in the region complaining about having to turn their heat on, about how strange this was, etc.
Now, a couple of friends of mine in the region maintain a fairly constant stream of political posts on Facebook and have a rather hardline conservative view of the world. Their posts are full of extremely negative text and links about President Obama, Congress, Democrats, "liberals" and pretty much anyone else that doesn't fit their worldview... usually delivered with a VERY heavy degree of sarcasm and anger.
They take it to such extremes that I often do find it hard to read their posts, but I haven't "hidden" their feeds on Facebook primarily because I don't want to be stuck in a self-affirming "echo chamber" of views like mine. I keep their posts coming because I want to be reminded of the many divergent views we have... but that's a good topic for a different blog post...
Anyway, one of these friends wrote on Facebook about how unseasonably cold it was and just expressed his surprise at having to turn the heat on at this time of year.
My immediate reaction was to click in the comment field and start typing the snarky reply:
What? You haven't figured out how to blame Obama yet?
And then I paused before hitting return and publishing the comment.
Just a few days prior to this I'd been having a couple of different discussions with people about the divisiveness within our society, the lack of civility, the way that sides within our political world here in the US seem to be getting more deeply entrenched ... and just about how there seemed to be acrimony and negativity online.
And here I was... about to add to that.
I deleted the text and cancelled adding the comment.
Sure, the comment would have been "fun". I would have enjoyed leaving it. It would have been enjoyable to poke a little bit at the fact that yes, indeed, some things out there are beyond the control of even your bitterest enemies.
But was it really necessary?
Here was a friend writing about his current condition. No politics. No name-calling. Just stating how things were.
I could have been empathetic / compassionate and joined him in commenting on the strange weather. Or I could have done what I was about to do and get a dig in (where there wasn't one) and add to the divisiveness.
Build people up - or tear people down.
A day or so later I saw on Facebook a graphic circulating that attributed to Sufism three questions to think about before speaking or writing something:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?
I haven't been able to find a definitive source for these questions - the closest seems to be these sources in a Daily Kos article - but regardless of origin, the questions are good ones. And in this particular case my proposed writing failed #2 and #3 in a big way.
The good news is that I did pause, reflect, and pulled back from that instant response.
Now, to be honest, in another recent case I did send an email response I probably shouldn't have and while it was true and perhaps necessary, it wasn't really kind.
Every moment. Every action.
Build people up... or tear people down.
The choice we make, in each moment, defines the kind of world we want to live in.