Actions speak louder than words.
I want that to be true. I want all the caring deeds which were accomplished today to make more of a difference in the world than all the angry, ugly words which were spoken and written.
I want friends to not be angry with their friends who happen to see things differently in at least one aspect of our corporate life. I want all the stupid, thoughtless statements that were made today to matter less than a lifetime of doing the things that friends do. I want friends to remember the visits, the meals shared, the work accomplished together, more than any hurtful words that ever came out of that same friend’s mouth.
I fear it will not be so.
I have always believed that the original thought above was true. In the world in which we used to live, it was. Few men or women put their thoughts into words and fewer wrote those words down to be a record used against them for all of their days. We talked face to face. We argued; we discussed; we shook our fingers under each other’s noses.
And then, when we parted, as friends, we shook hands and promised to do it again someday.
Today, we argue with little snippets of written information. No one listens, no one considers carefully the other’s point of view–we just regurgitate our talking points. If we need reinforcements, we copy and paste a link to an article that a professional writer crafted carefully–for a handsome price.
And we call that communication?
On a day like today, when our world is abuzz with the latest idiocy from Washington, many have crowded the most popular social website to put in their two cents’ worth. I wonder, at the end of this day, do we believe that we have accomplished anything?
I believe the most unanimity has been achieved today in the answer to one question on that website. It is a question asked by the computer program and not by any participant in the discussion.
Even my spell check program doesn’t think it is a real word, underscoring it with an angry red line. Yet today it is a verb, an action word if you will, which has been agreed to by untold number of indignant people who think they know now who that person really is, and they don’t like him or her anymore. Not because of anything the person has done, but because of words they repeated in the heat of a long-distance argument.
I almost clicked that button today myself. I am sick of the constant barrage of opinions, based on other opinions, based on–well, you get the idea. More than once, I was poised to unfriend someone I know and care about, simply because of their hurtful or thoughtless words.
I will not.
I spent a little time a few moments ago, going through my list of friends on that social website. There is not one–not one–I wish to cut off from contact with me; not one with whom I wish to part company.
Do I wish that they would stop leaking their arrogant and spiteful words all over my computer screen? Of course, I do! Do I think that those words which are being spoken in a time of stress and social upheaval are the sum of who that person is? Not at all!
A friend, with whom I have a normal relationship–normal meaning that we usually speak face to face–walked into my store this afternoon and we discussed much of what is happening in our culture today.
We argued about it. I raised my voice and spoke my mind. He raised his voice and gave me a piece of his. I shook my finger at him and he held up his hand in protest. Half an hour later, as he headed out the door to get back to work, we shook hands, and he promised that he would be back. We’ll argue again.
I’m looking forward to it.
We have been friends for over thirty years. I know who he is. I’ve watched him raise his children and love his wife, and I’ve watched him touch people’s lives. So, we have a difference of opinion now and then. What of it? What idiot throws away a lifetime relationship because of a few words that hang in the wind and then are gone?
The more I think about it, the more I’m coming down on the same side as my spell checker. There is no such word as unfriend. If it’s all the same to you, I believe I’ll be keeping all of you around, thanks.
I hope you feel the same way.
“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ American philosopher/writer ~ 1803-1882)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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