Christians often struggle with the disease of terminal niceness. We avoid conflict, shy away from hard conversations, smile and say we're fine when we're not. Somehow, the core message of Jesus has been replaced with a sort of bland commitment to niceness.
On the Internet, people are accountable for their behavior in very different ways than we are in person. Because we are likely to surround ourselves in real life with people who tend to think and believe the same way we do, it is often the case that we only stumble upon opinions very different from our own when we are online. And because we are behind a computer screen and not across a table from another person, we can sometimes allow the very worst parts of us to have free rein. Dallas Willard once wrote, "Feelings make excellent servants, but terrible masters," and this is just as true about the state of our online discourse. If I read something I disagree with and follow my feelings to respond, I am prone to be concerned with things like proving I am right. But to follow the example of Jesus, whose confidence was in the character of God and not in what anyone else thought of him, I have to be willing to let go of my own emotional response.
To that end, I've been trying to walk through five thoughts each time I feel compelled to respond quickly online. They are principles rooted not in the desire to be right or to be heard, but to be faithful and patient—to recognize and pursue the fruits of the spirit everywhere, especially in our lives online.1