Several weeks ago, I opened my Instagram feed and noticed some weird activity on a video I had posted many months earlier. Forty-six thousand likes! Have I been hacked? As I clicked on the post, I realized that a fifteen-second video I had made of our neighborhood’s summer block party had unexpectedly gone viral. Wow! This is cool.
The video wasn’t anything special. Just a quick pan of the street from my front porch. Neighbors gathered around folding tables we had set up in the street and kids roamed in packs like happy wild animals. It was my attempt to share a glimpse of our neighborhood magic, and I wrote a quick caption with tips and encouragement to help others engage their neighbors too.
With over two million views, this was obviously striking a chord with people. Again, my first reaction was, “How cool!”
Except it wasn’t all cool.
Most of the comments rolling in were from complete strangers. Some of them were encouraging, but as the video went more viral, the comments became anonymous and cutting. For the next several days I had to be really vigilant to delete spammy comments like “DM me and I’ll send you $3,000 tomorrow!” and biting comments like “Must be nice to live in an all-white neighborhood.” My gut reaction was to spew back defensively that my husband is the first Filipino homeowners association president the neighborhood has had and that my Asian kids are the ones on the scooters there to the left. I want to point out Ms. Christina, who goes to the Asian market and brings us special candies and tiger balm every week.
But as I scrolled through nasty comments and messages about our neighborhood, our race, our demographic, all the unimportant and untrue things being assumed as fact on a post that was meant to stir up kindness, I realized I had to decide how I wanted to treat this dumpster fire.
I could defend myself and add fuel to the blaze. Or I could take a beat and let my pause extinguish the flames.
It seems like more and more, anytime we open our phones and computers, we see someone’s extreme opinions about the latest hot topic — which appears to be almost everything. What a time to be alive, when you can communicate your inner thoughts to pretty much anyone with the click of a Send button!
Chances are you’ve also experienced this phenomenon of the unfiltered response.
I miss not being anxious about relational stress as we approach yet another election year, yet another global health issue, yet another this side versus that side. And before I can even formulate language to describe this anxiety, my body responds for me: I wear my shoulders as earmuffs. My breath quickens. I wince. My brow furrows, blood rushes to my cheeks, my stomach hurts. If you watch the news or have social media or talk to a neighbor, you probably know what I mean.
I close the computer and think about it all day. And “it” isn’t just my video gone viral. It’s all the backhanded comments and jumping to false assumptions. It’s the tearing down and creating us-versus-them categories for every possible issue. It’s using our words as weapons and calling it normal. It’s all of it.
I can’t help but think, I wish she hadn’t mentioned that. I wish he hadn’t said it in that way. They make me so mad. Why are people like this? Why can’t we just stop treating each other like this?
And let me say, when I’m about to actively run into an argument after reading Cousin Fred’s entire comments section in his latest fire-breathing post, I instead take a deep breath and consume truth that comes from a living and active God. A God who loves me but isn’t afraid to ask me to check my perspective.
So I pray, I am the problem. Forgive me, Lord, for wanting to murder this person with my words, for believing I am more worthy of Your gift of grace than he is. Give me the supernatural power to love someone I think of as my enemy. I can’t do this on my own.
As believers, we should be people marked not by fear, hatred, or murderous words but by peace. We should desire unity instead of actively seeking out division with our words. We should have the markings of self-control and love, not unbridled tongues that have the power to set the world on fire (see James 3:5–6). I don’t know if I really believed that until the last couple years, but haven’t we all witnessed the destruction caused by our tongues and how they hold the power of life and death?
We each have personal accounts of our own fractured relationships and devastating losses. But lest this all start to feel a bit depressing, we actually do have great hope. Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
Hear Jesus speaking it to you: “In Me you may have peace. Take heart.” Notice how your body responds to the truth. It’s quite different from scrolling through a social media feed. Maybe, if you’re like me, your shoulders come down and your breath slows. As the words of Scripture settle into my heart, I can see things more clearly: We are too quick to scroll conversations and comment threads and assume we are the only ones who know the correct path. But God is our Good Shepherd. He actively searches to bring us back to Himself, reorient our hearts toward Him, and give us the peace of His guidance, care, and protection — even from ourselves.
We are not on our own when we face difficult circumstances and interactions or when we have to navigate complex relationships and complicated feelings. When we see ourselves and others with the right perspective, we remember that our words, whether written in a comment or spoken out loud, have the power to attest to a better word: God is our only hope in this world. And what good news that it doesn’t rest on our human shoulders!
Ask yourself: Where am I tempted to use my words to tear down or divide instead of to build up and bring peace?
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I am sorry you received thoughtless comments about your video. There is not point to such meanness, I don’t understand why some feel the need to write hurtful words. I like your thought to take a pause and let it die out. Hugs to you.
Jami Nato says
It wasn’t fun!
Kudos to Jami .
Jami Nato says
Well, I would say it wasn’t my first gut thing to do. I wanted to yell back! ha.
Wonderfully said, Jami.
Jami Nato says
Your text remind me of this song.❤️
I am continue to be shocked and saddened by the vitriolic tirades ……I have chosen to remove myself from places where often outlandish, untrue, and fear mongering happens. By doing that I am letting it continue without countering with evidence, but unfortunately have found objective, empirical evidence doesn’t change minds. I am sorry that even in this forum of presumably safe and civil space it is happening.
Anna Gibson says
I love this perspective!
Janet W says
Oh Jami your post today is so appropriate considering it is election day!
My husband and I butt heads in this area more often than I’d like to admit! I am “tempted to use my words” to “beat up” my husband when we disagree on most election topics. Actually, it’s not the topics it’s the people talking about the topics. I get frustrated with the “bulling” and “using words to tear down or divide instead of to build up and bring peace?” Just like me they lose perspective. They start getting personal instead of remaining calm and staying on topic!
God is our Good Shepherd and I am soooo grateful He brings me back to Him \0/
Jami Nato says
Yes, Remember the fruits of the spirit and ask God for wisdom. He promises to give it. 🙂
Melissa Ens says
Thank you for this reminder, Jami & (in)courage!
Barbara K Rothman says
I always enjoy reading your messages Jami! You seem so happy & upbeat & I know having a close relationship with the Lord will bless us with lights to shine for Him.
People can be so cruel but rise above it & allow God to shine thru you. Don’t feel you need to answer each rude comment but relish the fact that you have a God who loves YOU plus He’s blessed you with a wonderful husband & 4 great kids.
I come from a Jewish home but accepted Christ when I was 16. I married the man of my dreams at 19 & Jerry is 1/2 Jewish (Dad) & 1/2 Catholic (German Mom). What a combination right?
Well, my 2nd born married a full Filipino, beautiful God loving woman. Then my first born married a woman from Lebanon. An Arab, but a lovely, beautiful Christian woman. Before they married, I started e-mailing her so I would have a relationship with her before we met at their wedding in Lebanon. They have quite the love story orchestrated by God. Nour & I are very close & love each other unconditionally. My youngest & only daughter married a man who is 1/2 American & 1/2 Indian. Our family is quite the United Nations!!! We love all of our married in son & daughter’s.
Lord bless you Jami with a wonderful Thanksgiving & Christmas!!!
Jami Nato says
that sounds amazing!
It makes me sad that you had to deal with all those unpleasant comments. I rarely have unkind comments on my posts. But I have a very small voice in the internet world, so I don’t have that exposure. You seem to have figured out how to put out the fires. With God’s help. I’ve learned, too, not to react to all the negatively. Let it die a quiet death.
Wishing you love and joy!
Thank you for your post. I agree it is best to take a pause. I actually deleted my twitter account as it is too easy to join the movement of accepting unacceptable behaviors. Social media seems to encourage people to post things that would never be spoken face to face. People really are lost sheep. Thank for “incouraging” people to follow Jesus, the good Shepard.
Jami Nato says
Yes, we have to remember these are real people with real hearts!
Thank you Jami. This certainly came at a perfect time in my life. I am going through a very emotional time with a few of my siblings. A line has most definitely been drawn and a lot of unkind words have been said amongst all of us. I am truly trying to be the better person and rise above their words and actions. But I have had some very ugly, unkind, hurtful lies hurled at me and right now forgiving them is difficult. But I am no longer going to respond to their insults and I am no longer going to let their words have power over me. I will continue to pray for healing in our family.
Jami Nato says
I am so sorry. It is so difficult!
I think you’re right, it is best to cherish the relationship instead of. fighting over politics. Political parties come and go, but family is always family. difficult and layered.
Too Often, I start a long Comment on FB from post. Only to catch myself up with the Question: “What would Jesus Do?” Then I usually end up deleting my Comment, before posting it. I totally agree that God calls me to use my words online carefully, under His leading!
Beth Williams says
I am so tired of all the rhetoric being spewed out on social media. It’s easy to sit behind a screen & write out those comments. There have been times I’ve wanted to send back “ugly” comments to emails & other posts. Then I think to myself what’s the point? Do it & you are acting like the world does & not like a Christian. I keep those comments to myself & do my best to spread Christ’s light & love.