This article is part of the Reactivity: Rethinking Social Media with Paul Tripp series.
In this episode, Paul Tripp discusses the toxic culture of reactivity full of anger, mockery, and disrespect that is so common to see on social media but also bleeds into our everyday relationships.
Not too long ago, I, as everybody in our culture, was hearing this discussion in the church and outside the church about the nature of justice. I thought it would be helpful, because I only ever post Scripture on the gospel, to just post a bunch of passages from Scripture on justice. I was unprepared for the reaction that I got.
It was angry, dismissive. I was called names I’ve never been called before. Now, it immediately reminded me that this was an instant reaction. What people did is they reacted to the title of the post without reading the post. These are people who say they love God. These are people who follow me because they love Scripture. They reacted to the topic with anger.
There’s your culture of toxic reactivity. It’s an instantaneous response without patience, without self-control, without reflection. I think my little story just presents the fact that my little story is not a little story. It’s one moment in a culture that’s doing this literally thousands and thousands of times every day. We react in anger or mockery or disrespect or jumping into a controversy without reflection, without understanding, without patience, and in ways that are not kind.
Part of what we’re dealing with is the rise of 24-hour entertainment; it’s the rise of social media. We live in a chamber of constant noise, thousands of voices all the time. It’s tempting to think if you’re not in contact with the culture, then you’re going to be left behind; and if you don’t jump in and get involved, you won’t be part of what’s important. So in response to the noise, we become part of the noise.
It would be bad enough if this toxic reactivity was just on social media, but it bleeds into our everyday relationships. And here’s how: if my heart becomes comfortable with responding this way—this immediate, emotional response—and my heart becomes comfortable with that, it’s pretty easy to predict that will bleed over into my other relationships, because I don’t have two hearts. I only have one heart. And what rules my heart here will then tend to rule my heart over here.
So we carry that reactivity into marriages. We carry that reactivity into parenting. We carry that reactivity into our cultural, political life. We carry that reactivity into our churches. What was once a dynamic in social media has now become the dynamic of a wider culture.
One of the beauties of the gospel is it holds before us visions of things that we should quest for. The vision of the gospel of the church and its community is one of respect, one of kindness, one of patience. It seems repetitive to say this, but it’s a culture of people who need grace, and because they know they need grace, are willing to give grace to other people that need grace. That whole culture of love and kindness and gentleness and forgiveness and forbearance, with its commitment to unity, is radically different than the culture of toxic reactivity.
Now, why does the gospel hold that in front of us? Because it wants us to know Jesus died so that you could experience this better life. This is a better way, and Jesus, in his life, death, and resurrection, has made this better way possible for you.
In the next few weeks, we’re going to explore aspects, attitudes, tendencies of this culture of toxic reactivity. But that’s not all we’re going to do. We’re also going to talk about how God, in his mercy, meets us with his grace, and how in specific ways he empowers us to live in a much better way.
Well, I want to leave you with this question: How much of your behavior—your actions, reactions, and responses, both on social media and your personal relationships—have been shaped by this culture of toxic reactivity? Don’t answer too quickly. Give yourself time to reflect.
Let me pray. Lord, it is really true that there are ways in which we are always influenced by the surrounding culture, and sometimes those ways are subtle and hard to see. Sometimes we don’t want to actually examine those ways. We pray that you would use these podcasts to help us not only to look at the culture that’s around us, but look at ourselves and find your help in our moment of need. In Jesus’s name, amen.
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