They may be good people, but they speak like jerks, at cookouts or on Twitter and Facebook. I can, as I’ve written before, look back at my past writing and find articles in which I said something almost as stupid and cruel as “addicts deserve to die.” I put it more indirectly and kindly, because I know how things sound, but the sweeping unkindness has been the same.
I also know the feeling when a dull conversation takes flight because you and the other guy settle on a shared enemy to put down. Years ago, when I was an…[Episcopal Church] activist, an elderly minister noted at the beginning of a board meeting how excited everyone got when they went from “How was your flight?” to the latest liberal outrage. He had done this himself and it bothered him now, and he wanted us to stop it. I felt ashamed, as he clearly felt ashamed, but I took years to really see what he meant.
All our saintliness must feel tempted to this Two Minutes Hate, at least when we’re with others. The answer is party to set a guard upon our mouths and a watch over the door of our lips, as the psalmist says (141:3). Or rather to ask God to do this for us, as the psalmist did, because in almost nothing is our fallenness made so clear as in our speech.