Wisdom exists in a place of tension. Some people think that wisdom comes from more passion, more outrage, and more extremism. It’s a popular idea just now, but it’s nonsense.
Usually the wise approach doesn’t call for that kind of reaction. What’s required is not more indignation but something more thoughtful, something that gives room for people to reach out to each other. It’s easy to be indignant, but harder to listen and think about what someone you disagree with is saying to you.
This is a real struggle for our society at the moment. We seem to have lost faith in the concept of debate, especially civilized debate. Instead we gather together in social media ghettos, and talk about how stupid the ‘other lot’ are. There was a lot of this during the Brexit referendum.
Social commentators have taken to describing these virtual spaces as ‘echo chambers’. The intent behind them may be political or religious, they might be based on class or race or gender. They are very insular, very unforgiving, and very inward looking.
As Christians, we appreciate the need to have fellowship. But that doesn’t mean we need to behave like we are in one of these ‘echo chambers’. A healthy church spends at least some of its time facing outwards with a generous spirit; and what’s true for the church is true for each of us as individuals. Firing off a few smug, self-righteous comments to people who think like us, and believe the same thing as us, is not wisdom.
Writers have a special responsibility to buck the trend here. Real wisdom comes from saying what we believe with honesty and grace. We aren’t out to impress those who agree with us, we are trying to bridge the gaps with those who do not, and just now those gaps are enormous. Such honest expression is costly, and the wisdom comes not just in what we say, but in the spirit with which we say it. This is why wisdom exists in the place of tension.
As with so many things, Jesus summed it up perfectly. He told us to “speak the truth in love.” For us writers that includes what we pen or type, as well as what we say.