When I scroll through my timeline and read various threads of conversation online sometimes I wonder if there is a large, angry black cloud hovering over the entire population. Why? Because people are so angry. At least it appears that way from the comment section of many Facebook or blog posts talking about anything of substance (or not of substance even). It doesn’t matter what the subject. It could be anything from which team is the greatest in the league to heavier topics such as abortion and healthcare rights. It’s no different in large groups of moms from all walks of life. We are like a small microcosm of the larger diverse world. Every one of us is so different with varying outlooks, values, and perspectives based on our upbringings and subsequent experiences. Engaging in shouting matches online about the issues is not helpful and it really doesn’t change anyone’s mind. It just makes the black cloud grow heavier with the condensation of angry words more and more each day. When it can’t hold any more moisture and an all out storm breaks loose, who knows what sort of natural disaster will occur.

So that’s why I say us moms need to take a collective chill pill and be an example to the rest of the world. The way I see it, there are three major groups of people in any given discussion. Either you are on Side 1, Side 2, or somewhere in between. And each person could be in a different group at any one time. The middle-of-the-road moms don’t care enough one way or the other to say much, but the other two groups of moms need to chill the most. They are the ones who may be very extreme and passionate about their ideas and beliefs. It is possible to be that way and still make room for others. After all, Jesus did it all the time.

Both sides need to remember to be kind in sharing how they feel about the issues that matter most to them. No one ever won a person over by screaming and shouting at them, making them feel less than, or resorting to name calling. The Creator gave all of us free will choice not compliance by force. Let’s remember that for those who believe. We also need to realize that this whole judging argument doesn’t work because we all subconsciously judge one another all day every day. No one more than the other, just differently. It’s human nature. It’s why we form the thoughts and opinions that make us respond in a discussion, even if it’s just to say, “You’re judging me, stop doing that.” There’s actually nothing wrong with it as long as the motives are based in truth and love and there is no hypocrisy from the one making the judgment (does the speck vs. the plank in the eye ring a bell?). The real problem comes in when the basis for truth cannot be agreed upon by all parties, but let’s not get too far off on a tangent.

You know what else doesn’t work? Reacting quickly and jumping to conclusions without considering all context. We think we know what’s in everyone’s head based on the words we read on the screen, but there’s so much lost in just going off what the other person wrote in that moment. You might miss the small nuances of language, the tone of voice and inflection, personality tendencies, background, etc. It’s best to wait and respond when tempers are cooled and some of the hot air has seeped out of our balloons. With no hot air that snarky, 200-word response back to the other person won’t sail and has nowhere to go but down. (Sorry. That’ll be the last nature metaphor, I promise!) Applying labels and projecting our own feelings and expectations onto other doesn’t work either. There are billions of people on this planet and we all think/feel differently about everything. Two people of the same religious sect standing right next to each other might practice very differently depending on so many factors already mentioned earlier.

So what works better, if not, best? What should we do instead? We can start by getting off social media for these kinds of provocative discussions. It’s best to talk for real; as in, IRL ( in real life or in real time). Most people that troll the interwebz don’t want to do that though because they weren’t genuinely interested in healthy debate in the first place. They only wanted to come out on top for being right and, of course, get in the last word. When you talk in real time it allows you to see and relate to each other as human. You’re also more likely to be kind and extend courtesies when you can’t hide behind a screen.

And if you can’t get off social media to sit down with someone, at least seek to understand before being understood throughout your entire interaction. You do that by listening to gain understanding and not just to get your next attack point ready for when they stop talking. Approach with genuine curiosity and ask questions. “What’s your view on this?… Oh yeah?… Why do you feel that way?… What or who is your influence?… Where can I learn more about this on my own so I can have an informed opinion?” People love to talk about themselves and a question asked with a sincere desire to know will go a lot further than a perfectly worded retort. Then when it’s your turn to share, do so without the condescending tone. I know it’s hard. I struggle too because a little bit of knowledge can make anyone slightly arrogant. Unfortunately, I lost two friends behind my arrogance, but thankfully we have regained mutual respect and peace over time. Now I am slower to speak and I no longer write four-page emails about why I think I’m right. I’ve learned that really does nobody any good and it surely won’t change any minds. Finally, accept people where they are.  If they don’t agree, leave it at that in favor of keeping the relationship intact instead.

Yep! The chill pill is a hard one to swallow, but it’s the best remedy for getting up from under that angry black cloud and experiencing peace through a true, respectful exchange of ideas.  Try it out for yourself!

Have you ever had anyone attack you online for something you said?  How did you handle the situation?