A Three-Minute Book Club post
Well, OK, seeing as how he was writing in the 17th century I suppose Francis de Sales might not have been thinking of comboxes and weblogs in particular, but that’s what I immediately thought of when I read this in his excellent book Finding God’s Will for You:
God’s servants who have had the highest and most exalted inspirations have been the gentlest and most peaceable men in all the world. Such were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses is called “a man exceedingly meek above all men.” David is praised for his mildness.
On the contrary, the evil spirit is turbulent, bitter, and restless. Those who follow his hellish suggestions in the belief that they are heavenly inspirations can usually be recognized because they are unsettled, headstrong, haughty, and ready to undertake or meddle in affairs. Under the pretext of zeal, they subvert everything, criticize everyone, rebuke everyone, and find fault with everything. They are men without self-control and without consideration, who put up with nothing. In the name of zeal for God’s honor, they indulge in the passions of self-love.
Unfortunately, the kind of behavior that reflects a soul in tune with the Holy Spirit is rarely what brings large amounts of traffic to a blog. Being “unsettled, headstrong, haughty, and ready to undertake or meddle in affairs” while “subverting everything, criticizing everyone, rebuking everyone, and finding fault with everything” is pretty much a recipe for how to have a popular website.
Also, the internet gives us unprecedented opportunities to express our opinions in a relatively consequence-free environment — and, unlike face-to-face communication, it’s surprisingly easy to fall into self-indulgent, careless speech when the only repercussions you’ll face are words on a screen.
For example, yesterday I came across a blog post by an atheist who basically said that no intelligent person could be a Christian. With hardly a second thought I began typing up a scathing response full of passive aggressive insults and condescension, supposedly with the goal of defending God against such insults. Luckily I had just re-read this part of Finding God’s Will for You, and St. Francis’ words echoed in my mind as I asked myself: Is this about God’s honor…or self-love? Re-reading my own turbulent words, the answer was obvious.
In our age of 24/7 communication it’s especially important to remember: Just because we’re defending God, doesn’t mean we’re reflecting God.
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