My husband calls it "riding the horse." I think another way to verbalize it may be "getting on the soap box," or perhaps, "ranting," although neither of those describes exactly what he means.
Picture this scene, which happened about eight years ago: I am reading the latest best selling book, the one everyone says I have to read. I am not enjoying it; it's actually quite bad. I am getting irked. I am reading in the living room. Over the course of the three chapters I finish, I wear a path on the carpet from my spot on the couch downstairs to where my husband is working.
"You should hear this!" I explode, verbalizing my dismay.
"Then stop reading it."
I go back upstairs to my spot on the couch. Ten minutes later, I am back on the path.
"You will not believe this," I rant.
"Then stop reading it."
This happens for about an hour until I decide, after more exhortations than should have been necessary, to put the book down. I never finish it. I don't need to finish it. I know that it does not speak the same language as I do despite it being written in English.
My husband calls it "riding the horse" because it's like being on a rocking horse: you expend energy, but you never go anywhere. It's also like picking a scab. Despite the discomfort and the fact that we know it's not good for us, we do it, anyway.
I've spent a lot of years being charged up about something. I have a bad temper. I react fast. I know how to use my tongue as a weapon. I can be sarcastic. Over the years, I have hopefully softened, but I'm still a work in progress.
I used to frequent the places on the internet where I could "ride my horse." Why? I still don't know. I think I was under the illusion I was fighting for truth or something, but I was probably just being argumentative and critical. I've discovered that I'm not a good warrior in that sense, and actually (sorry, ladies) sometimes women make lousy warriors because we tend to get nasty. It can be a bit of a cycle; reading something (likely when I ought to have been doing something else), getting charged up on it, riding the horse, ranting about it, feeling disconcerted over a lack of consensus, frustrated at the conflict, getting off when it was over, and then getting right back on at the next conflict. If you want conflict, the internet is your baby; it's full of it. In its boundary-less freedom-filled pixels on your screen, it's loaded with conflict for your pleasure. The problem is, it has the power to consume; it can foster bitterness. And if you think blogs are bad places for conflict, just check out some of the conflict at YouTube.
I try to stay off my horse now, although my husband will remind me when I look like I am getting on again. I'm learning better ways to deal with things that unnerve me and disconcert me (pray, pray pray). As I have worked to step back from such things (and as I said, it's a work in progress) I have to come to see something that I should have much sooner: it consumes a lot of valuable energy to be angry, and in the end, we have nothing to show for it. It can be destructive to visit that comment box, that blog, that Facebook page, that Twitter feed, all day long, wondering what's been said now. I surely have better things to do.
Indulging in controversy in the name of promulgating truth is a dead end. It comes down to whether or not I'm more concerned with what is right than I am with being right.
I was challenged by this article a Facebook friend posted today about anger on the internet. It's a thought-provoking read.
Surely, we're aware of the warnings against anger from Proverbs. Here's a sample of just a few:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov. 15:1)
A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. (Prov. 14:17)
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Prov. 19:11)
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man. (Prov. 22:24)
Please don't misunderstand me. This does not mean I'm not a lover of truth, or desire to see the Church built (God is doing that, by the way, even amidst bad books and bad theology). I care about sound doctrine. I care deeply. But I have to realize that there are quite simply things I will never change and people who will never agree with me. Repeating my argument yet again, and in increasingly harsh terms will not change that person's mind. And perhaps I'm the one who is wrong. Do I stop and ask myself that? Perhaps a better use of energy is to evaluate my own heart instead of everyone else's. There is wonderful freedom in just. letting. go.
The best way to battle error is to know truth. That means knowing the Word of God. I don't know it well enough. The energy spent riding the horse is better spent in the Word. It's that easy.