2016 has arrived, with all those resolutions and wishes for a better year than last. According to the Chinese, it’s the Year of the Fire Monkey, although that’s not actually until February 8. It’s a vital year due to the presidential election. Some call it the most important election ever.
I’m not into astrology, Chinese or Western, so I’m not interested in fire monkeys. I do care about the presidential election, though I think other things still matter more. I want to encourage you in a more personal, practical and useful way as we start this new year together.
What if we focused on making just a few little changes in our words? What might we change in both the words we say and the posts we make in a world dominated by social media? A few thoughts:
1. When tempted to speak up or type out your outrage over something, try this: Pause. Reflect. Reconsider. If you are given to posting incessantly your frustration about this or that (hint: You probably don’t see it, ask others who know you), I would suggest you wait a full hour before posting your words. You can write out a tweet and save it as a draft for instance, and then wait a bit. I’m guessing most of the time you will decide not to post. Do the same in conversation, pausing before feeling you have to give your two cents’ worth. This will help you not to sound like a curmudgeon on the one hand, and make your words matter when you actually speak about something that matters on the other.
2. When you have an opportunity to encourage, affirm or generally spread joy, take it. Ours is an age of cynicism only compounded by social media. Apply this to yourself as well. Trying to lose weight and get healthy in 2016? Focus on your progress, not your failures. Seek the good in others whenever possible; there are plenty of us well equipped to point out the bad. I’m committed to seek intentionally to encourage one specific church leader every day in 2016. Affirmation is powerful.
3. When you see obvious injustice in the world and in your community, speak out against it. My first point aims at discouraging the knee-jerk outrage filling our world. By reducing those kinds of comments and taking care only to speak negatively against evil, against injustice, and on behalf of the broken and helpless around us, your words have more power. I’m not advocating a wimpy, sugary kind of sweet talk all the time. Rather, when we speak against the wrong we see, let’s be careful not to be defending ourselves or harping on our pet peeves or preferences, but instead speak up for those who have no voice. Oh, and be careful when you judge others who don’t speak up just like you. Give people grace to speak on issues without aligning 100 percent with yours.
4. When the thought comes to mind to speak to someone about Jesus, take it. Yes, take it. We Christians are some of the worst overthinkers on earth. How many times do we (me included) reflect on a conversations with “I should have shared Jesus with him/her”? When the thought comes to mind to speak to someone about Jesus, it’s likely not the world, the flesh or the devil encouraging you. Go ahead, speak up, speak out, with words of truth and grace so needed in our broken world.
In summary: Stop spewing outrage, speak encouraging words, speak up for the helpless and always speak of Jesus when He comes to mind. Let’s try this in 2016.