Matthew 7:12 – In all things, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

There can be no debate that the discourse of our culture has taken on all the class and dignity of an Andrew Dice Clay routine from the 1980s. Otherwise educated and professional adults have morphed into spewing factories of crass, vulgar, profane, angry, childish, inane, and just plain dumb rhetoric on a daily (hourly?) basis.

Perhaps the most surprising element of our cultural sprint to the bottom is the primary rationale being used by the shouting, spitting, angry mobs engaging in the loudest and most obnoxious behavior. When confronted by the immaturity and grossness of their public screeds, the guilty parties throw up their shields and bring us all back to the 4th grade playground with this laughably sad defense: they started it.

Before we go any further, close your eyes and think back to the time you tried to invoke that same excuse as your parents were expressing their disappointment in your behavior towards siblings or as they sat in the principal’s office hearing of your latest scrape during recess.

Most likely, your opening and closing line of defense was, “they started it,” and your parents brought down a hammer that left you speechless. They didn’t care who started it…you had been taught to know better. Some form of punishment – grounding, spanking, detention, extra chores – soon followed.

We’ve lost that sense of individual responsibility for one’s actions and have devolved into a culture where all I need in order to justify acting like a mindless cretin is to find one other person conducting him/herself in a detestable manner, thus opening the hatch on my pent up frustration and granting me license to shout literally anything (except THAT one word) at the top of my lungs.

Be better.

The poor behavior of someone else does not grant you permission to return his or her incivility. Doing so says more about you than it does them.

Intellectual laziness leads to emotional explosions. A lack of ideas and the capacity to effectively share them steamrolls into a shoutfest where the loudest and most vile voices get the attention.

You’ve seen it on the news because vitriol is popular content. Protesters stand nose-to-nose, spittle flying between them as they hold signs bearing grossly overstated messages and the screaming reaches the decibel level of a rock concert.

Be better.

Stop embarrassing yourself. Develop an argument centered on facts. Learn how to present those facts. Stay calm. Be respectful. You needn’t back down on your core beliefs, but if the only message you deliver is hatred and anger, no one will care about your beliefs.

I don’t know the exact moment we returned to the 4th grade, but it’s not a pretty picture.

Return with me briefly to the verse from Matthew we included at the start. Note that the instruction is to do unto others as you “would have them do unto you.” This is FAR different than “as they have done unto you.”

Be better. The poor behavior of someone else is not your excuse to do the same.

Bill Hobson of Hobson Media is available to speak to your church, school, group about the issue of civil discourse, messaging clarity, and effective presentation. Contact us for more information!