“Do not be hasty. That is my motto.” So said Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings. The older I get, the more I think Treebeard was onto something.
In days past I knew more. The world appeared black and white, and I spoke with great confidence. Today not so much. Shades of gray multiply, and wisdom rather than law seems the need of the hour. I know far less with less certainty.
Unlike the young, social media forms no part of my DNA. It arrived in my adulthood, and I thank God for that. Had Facebook or Twitter existed when I was 25, I’m pretty sure I would have destroyed myself with it. Too quick to speak. Too slow to listen. Too sure of myself. That arrogant young man still lies just below the surface. I wrestle him often. Sometimes he wins. Mostly I tame him. I am learning to take the advice a godly friend once offered: “Make haste slowly.” It’s a great line. Really, though, he was just paraphrasing half the Book of Proverbs.
If you’re in your teens or 20s, and especially if you like to argue on social media, take it from a man whose words have too often been too confident and too hot: Slow down. Acknowledge that you may know less than you think. Consider whether your words will bless or simply inflame. Engage ideas; don’t attack people. Ponder more. Speak less. Is it your job to patrol the Internet? To make sure everybody knows the myriad ways in which you think they are wrong? To convince the world of the superiority of your arguments? Who appointed you to this role, and what qualifications do you possess for it? Must those who differ with you become your enemies? Is it enough to express disagreement with a man’s point of view, or must you belittle him?
Proverbs 10:19 cautions, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent,” while Proverbs 11:12 warns, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” I could list many more.
These words are particularly important for those who profess Christ. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus taught that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Your words betray your heart, and if you claim that Jesus has transformed your heart, then your words directly testify to His character and power.
If your words in church bless God, while your words on social media curse men, what does that say about your heart? What does it say about Christ’s work in transforming you?
I’m slowly learning to be slow. In a digital, text-message, Insta-Twit-Face-Snap world it’s increasingly easy to be hasty. More now than ever, I am learning to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” and to acknowledge that not everything is black and white. Life requires wisdom.
The older I get, the less I know for certain. The less I know for certain, the more certain I am that I need Christ. And the more likely I am to agree with Treebeard.