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Beware of online pride: 5 tips to be meek, lowly and Christian online

By Ryan Jardine

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, May 16 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

The public square has gone digital. Ideas, opinions, perspectives and their counterarguments are shot back and forth across the virtual divide at a frenetic pace. Here are five tips that, when applied, can help maintain our Christianity, even online.

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The public square has gone digital. Ideas, opinions and perspectives (with all their counterarguments) are blasted back and forth across the virtual divide at a frenetic pace.

This contention historically found expression face to face. It is now on a screen, and our response can be immediate, global and, at times, viral and contagious.

In these responses, do we remember our desired emulation of Christ, or do we forget him, pick up our weapons of war and prepare for battle in a virtual arena?

Of all the opinions expressed online, undoubtedly there are those with which you agree or disagree, disregard or even find abhorrent. The question is not whether someone disagrees with you, because for every opinion you cherish, you will undeniably find someone online who vehemently opposes it. The real question is this: Can you maintain your Christianity in an environment where perspectives, opinions and viewpoints different from your own gain traction and go viral on a daily basis?

Dissenting voices may even cast harsh judgment with wanton disregard for your perspective and feelings. Too often, hurt feelings and exposed insecurities may lead you to prepare your counterattack and succumb to virtual road rage.

A warning: Prideful pitfalls threaten those who yield to contention and anger in these toxic online interactions. In the virtual world, where the human element is minimized, you may behave in ways you would never dream of behaving if confronting those same issues in person.

These online confrontations are varied and could be as subtle as using a “like” on Facebook that supports another’s statement or joining the war of words with a dissenting or supporting comment expressed in a status update, tweet or article. In each of these online interactions, we exhibit either our Christlike nature or our predilection to confrontation.

Consider, for example, how you respond to discussions on an issue you are passionate about, such as any of the hot-button issues of the day: marriage, politics or any aspect of religion. Ignoring the question of who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself: “Especially in my response to opinions different from my own, am I meek, lowly and humble? In a word, Christlike?” The true test of your Christianity online is how you respond to the opinions, perspectives and viewpoints that are different from your own.

At a time when the pride of one ancient people was at its zenith, it was observed, “Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.”

How can we apply those words to our day and to our Internet communications? Railing could take the form of a rant, a taunt, verbal abuse, invective or a persistent complaint, and it might find expression in a Facebook status or in a comment on an online post or tweet. It may mock or hold up to ridicule those things you agree with or even something you hold sacred.

In response, do you rail, rant, taunt, mock and hold the opposition up for ridicule in a tit for tat where each side gains support and followers yet everyone still loses? To paraphrase Matthew, what benefit is there if in winning the online argument, you lose your soul?

The Christian rallying cry online should be meekness. Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared in a 1982 Brigham Young University fireside talk that meekness is “vital because one simply cannot develop those other crucial virtues — faith, hope and charity — without meekness.” Going further, he quoted the prophet Moroni, who said, “none is acceptable before God save the meek and the lowly in heart.” Even a change of venue from real life to a virtual world does not come with an exemption from the commandment to be meek.

The following five tips can help us maintain our love of Christ and our fellowmen, even when online.

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