By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
Technology has blessed us today with varying means of communication that can help us connect with one another and facilitate the building of relationships. Unfortunately, as with many things, this technology comes with both positives and negatives. We must recognize that technology not only cements relationships, but it can also distort them. Civil engagements are gradually eroding, if they are not already eroded, in online conversations. You need only read posts and comments on social media to know the level of degradation of human interaction.
But there is a simple but profound story in Scripture that speaks to our present-day human communication. It gives us a model of decency, patience and restraint in our everyday responses to human conversations. It is the story of Philip’s introducing Nathaniel to Jesus in the Gospel (Jn 1:45-51). When Philip found Nathaniel, he told him about Jesus by saying, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Nathaniel’s response was “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Certainly, this response could have come across as rude — asking if anything good could come out of a particular people or religion. (If this conversation were to be carried out in today’s social media, I can imagine the firestorm of back and forth it would ignite.) Nathaniel’s seemingly rude response could have elicited a correspondingly rude answer. But Philip’s calm response was “Come and see.” Indeed, Nathaniel accepted the invitation — he went, he saw, he believed and became a disciple.
In today’s toxic world, not every conversation ends civilly. In social media and on the Internet, in television commentaries and face-to-face conversations, it’s so often a back-and-forth exchange of insults on politics, race, social life, and morals — even sometimes on behalf of God or faith. Both sides lose it, and no one wins. It seems that there is nothing left that is so inviting that people will want to “come and see” so as to be convinced by any argument.
Some of the biggest culprits in our Internet-saturated interactions are “impatience” and lack of “self-control.” In our fast-paced digital world, we seem to have lost the virtues of patience and self-control which are two important Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Sadly, we have become very impatient in our everyday communications and interactions, be they virtual or face-to-face. We can’t wait to put our words in, to speak our minds, to respond to that comment, to comment on the comment, to get our point across — often without considering the harm or hurt our words could cause to someone, sometimes even to ourselves. All these actions are the result of impatience and lack of restraint. If we’re a little patient, if we take the time to think things over, to reflect on our post, to crosscheck our comments or responses before we make them, we will save ourselves and others the emotional trauma that many go through in what is supposed to be a God-giving and beautiful means of interaction in today’s world — the Internet and the social media. Just a little patience and self-control will do the trick.
Philip’s response to Nathaniel is a standard for Christian response to human communications and interactions in today’s world. As Christians we must invite people to come and see what we have seen and believed. Our ways of life, our spoken words, our online conversations — all are ways to invite people to come, see and learn. This calls for decency, restraint, and respect for differing opinions. When our responses turn bitter, sour and insulting, they will hardly be attractive enough for someone to be convinced of what we teach or share. They are not likely to be inspired to come, see and believe along with us.
We need a renewal of these virtues of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in our human conversation.
Father Jacob Dankasa is the parochial vicar at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney.