Three years ago I sought helpful counsel about a frustration with myself. I needed someone who was not invested to give me an honest assessment and help me to figure out ways to cope. Anger was ruling my heart. As I have watched the news over the last several days, I see that our culture has reached that same precipice. We spew our anger without any sort of filter. It’s like shooting a gun by saying, “Ready, FIRE, Aim.” Day after day I’m seeing posts, news reporting, and talking heads and we are volcanic with our words.
“How do I change this?” I asked. I had told a counselor about my emotions, the choices I had made, and the words I found coming out of my mouth. He gave me an image that has been in my office ever since.
“I remember that!” I said.
He continued. “I want you to fix that sign in your mind, but I’m going to give you the meaning of the letters. Stop, Think, Pray.
“STOP. Before you react to something, before you lay into someone, before you build a head of righteous (or unrighteous) indignation, STOP. Stop reacting. Stop talking. Stop and let your mouth sit in neutral.
“THINK. Think about all the parties involved, the details that you know, and for just a second you need to assume that what someone is saying or doing has a basis in their experience, knowledge, or background. Try to see what THEY are seeing before you try to enforce what you are thinking.
“PRAY. Don’t do this on your own. Ask God to help you sort through the clutter and confusion and focus on the facts. THEN you can open your mouth and speak on the foundation of what you have already done. Only then can you aim your words and your emotions in a way that will be helpful, reasonable, and appropriate.”
STP–Stop, Think, Pray.
These are emotionally charged times. Politics, social structures, decisions, tweets, op-ed’s, marches, protests, posts, pictures, slogans, slander–they are charging our time with so much vitriol that we can’t see straight, much less respond to each other in healthy ways. If you are just spewing your opinion and judgment of other people, you are not accomplishing any help or healing. You’re just adding to the venom. Instead, will you adopt my sign? STP–before you say or post or write anything, STP!