One of my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother is “The Chain of Screaming,” when Barney Stinson proposes an idea called, you guessed it, “the chain of screaming.” The quality of the video below is not great, but you’ll get an idea of what it is.
The idea is that anytime someone gets frustrated with someone else, it’s based in someone getting frustrated in them. Whether or not it’s a real thing, your guess is as good as mine, but it’s pretty funny. I thought about it while reflecting on a life experience I had yesterday.
I wrote a pretty serious blog post yesterday about how I think the Christian culture is too OK with criticizing people in a very condescending way. An excerpt:
Dictionary.com defines “condescending” as “showing or implying a usually patronizing descent from dignity or superiority” and “criticism” as “the act of passing judgement as to the merits of anything.” When I refer to condescending criticism, I mean “passing judgement on something from a patronizing attitude, usually from some kind of dignity or superiority.” Basically just melding those two definitions together.
It’s my view that we as a body of Christ do this on a regular basis and that it is not helpful, that it is anti-God, anti-Jesus, anti-everything we say we stand for and everything we say we believe. We get upset when famous atheists like Richard Dawkins make derogatory and condescending statements about Jesus, but then turn right around and make them about each other, about political figures like President Barack Obama, about religious figures like Rob Bell, etc.
Through Facebook comments, however, I got some negative feedback.
When I write posts like the one I did yesterday, something that challenges the status quo of Christian culture, I always tell myself that I don’t care what people think, that negative feedback won’t bother me unless it’s well thought-out and reasonable. But as I gauged my emotional response to everything yesterday, I found something completely different.
I was pissed. How dare someone question my well-reasoned arguments! How dare someone think that I’ve said something that’s not completely right! And how dare they say such a thing on Facebook!
This told me that my “don’t-care” attitude was clearly a show I was putting on for an audience of one, and it wasn’t God. It was me. And this forced me to confront a question I wouldn’t rather confront: is it OK to be upset when people disagree with you?
I think there are a lot of times we can’t help how we feel, we can’t help what emotions cross our mind whenever we initially respond to something. And for me, when I was reading the negative comments, I was frustrated. I started getting angry at the people responding, saying that they didn’t know what they were talking about, that they were stuck in their ways and afraid of something different being said.
Yeah, I was pretty sinfully upset. And that’s where I discovered that my upset-ness had gotten to a sinful point. It had led to me being angry with the people that had disagreed with me. And that’s where it’s not OK. My mind had started making ad hominem-style attacks at the person in question. I was trying to find the sinful parts of the person who had questioned me. When they made comments, they weren’t attacking me directly, but I felt that they were, so I decided to do the same.
As much as I write about trying to be like Christ on this blog, and as much as I talk about it with people, I was doing a terrible job of it. I was letting my emotions guide my thinking down a dangerous road towards bitterness and anger. I wanted to mouth off at the people.
How hypocritical I am! How much I was doing the opposite of what I had just written about in the very blog that had provoked the negative response! I began to fear for my future as a writer. If I’m going to be a writer as part of my career – which is my desire – this response to negative feedback can’t do. This will not be helpful. This could be deadly. If I get upset every time someone disagrees with me, I’ll likely be upset all the time.
It was yet another reminder to me – reminders that seem to come almost daily at this stage of my life – of two things.
First, I don’t have it all figured out. And I never will. A common stigma with Christians is that we think we have it all figured out and that we just tell the world that we do. This is not true! I will never have it all figured out. As much as I would love to have it all nailed down, I will never be wholly wise or completely smart how I want to be. I’ll never be sinless.
I think I’ll probably always struggle with this response. And I’m OK with that. I want to fight against it, and I hope it never happens ever again. But I’m OK with it because…
Second, God’s grace covers every time I get angry. And it’s growing me and sanctifying me. My walk with Christ didn’t end when I got angry at the people who disagreed with me. God still loves me and views me the same. I just became more aware of another area where I fall short of His perfection, which gives me yet another area to be thankful for His grace.
And that grace doesn’t end with my salvation. It ends when I’m perfected at the end of days, when I reach the end of my race and spend eternity with my Savior in heaven, when I will no longer be upset with people who criticize or disagree with me or what I do or what I say or what I write.
Where there will be – thank God – no chain of screaming.