3 Things Our Compulsion to Respond Reveals About Us

We have an increased opportunity to run our mouths more than any other generation.

That’s because we can effectively run our mouths not only with our actual mouths, but with our devices as well. We have at our fingertips the ability to broadcast our deepest thoughts, most profound opinions, and hottest takes more easily than ever before. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we are such a loud people – it’s because we have the opportunity to be loud.

You know the feeling as well as I do. There is someone who brings something to us – it’s an accusation, it’s a criticism, it’s a rebuke – it’s a whatever. Someone does something or says something or insinuates something and we, in return, feel a compulsion inside of us. It’s a burning down deep in our guts. We. Must. Respond. And usually when that responds comes, it’s part and parcel with what has just been dealt to us. If it was anger, we respond in anger. If criticism, we respond with criticism of our own. If accusation, we respond with defensiveness. Whatever the case, we respond.

Into this fray steps the word of God which has a lot to say about how we should respond. Or rather, it has a lot to say about how we should not respond. Here is just a sampling:

  • The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly (Prov. 12:23).
  • The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever (Isaiah 32:17).
  • My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).

The list could go on, but in summary, the Bible urges us to keep a tight reign on our tongues. To not feel the compulsion to respond. To operate in the confidence of faith that is exhibited in an ability to listen and to carefully speak without falling into anger.

We know this intellectually, but there is yet still that same old compulsion to say, or write, or tweet something. To respond. What might that compulsion reveal about our hearts? Let me suggest at least three things:

1. An inflated view of ourselves.

We seem to think everyone everywhere is waiting to hear what we think about a given topic. But it’s not just that – it’s that we think our particular voice must be heard. Now, to be sure, there are some times – many times even – that we can and should add our voice to a particular issue or topic. But there is a thin but important line between adding our voice to an issue and assuming that others are waiting on bated breath to know how we will respond. Even as we do add a response, then, we must be careful to do so with a sober estimation of who we are.

2. A deflated view of others.

Just as our compulsion to respond reveals an inflated view of ourselves, it can also reveal a deflated view of others. We read or hear someone saying something – anything – and immediately the comparison game starts in our mind. If he or she said so and so, then surely we also ought to respond with so and so. Especially since that he or she is, in our minds, of lesser esteem, intelligence, or importance than we are. Further, the internal dialogue might go, who is he or she after all to be making such statements? Someone (read, “I”) ought to put him or her in her place. And that doesn’t even broach the subject that perhaps we might have something to learn from the person who is speaking or writing. In any case, we feel compelled to respond because we have a diminished view of the person we are reacting to.

3. A low view of God’s providence.

Throughout the Bible, we see a similar number of exhortations to “wait” as we do to keep a hold on our tongues. In fact, in many places these two exhortations are linked together. So clearly choosing not to respond is, in some way, an act of faith. It’s a choice to believe that we don’t have to respond to everything because God will respond in the right way at the right time. We can, in faith, wait on the Lord rather than feeling like we have to take matters into our own hands.

And in the end, isn’t that what this compulsion to respond is really all about? It’s about feeling like we have to present our opinion? That we have to advocate for ourselves? That if we don’t stand up for what we think we know then no one will? If that’s the case, then before we speak or tweet or hit send then perhaps we ought to examine our own faith barometer. Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves how confident we are in the wisdom, justice, and advocacy of God at all? Maybe that is what has begun to wane, and that’s why we feel we absolutely, positively, without a doubt respond, and respond immediately.

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