In a recent social media post, I engaged with a commenter after they made some wildly uninformed and outright false statements about LGBTQ+ people in general and bisexuality in particular. Despite trying to respond clearly and politely to them, their response back was hostile, inflammatory, and completely closed to genuine engagement.
What made it stand out, however, was that it was couched in Christian language that seemed to assert that their views were not only unquestionably and obviously true, but ultimately loving.
While others in the thread seemed shocked by her tone and words, I was not. This was all too familiar. I had been in countless other conversations exactly like this one. So, I made my case as clearly as I could (as much for other readers than for this person) and moved on.
I haven’t always responded to these kinds of exchanges this way. In the past (and on bad days still), I would react by decimating their shallow arguments, undermining the basis of their beliefs, and calling into question their integrity as Christians. In other words, I would shame them. And, just for a moment, such a response felt good, especially when others would pile on their agreement. So why did I stop?
Reasons To Resist Shame
First and foremost, I stopped because using shame is not only unkind, it is ultimately ineffective. If my only goal is to score points and feel good, shame works wonders. However, it not only doesn’t change hearts and minds, but it also tends to entrench those hearts and minds even further into the protection of their certainty. In other words, I end up making the problem worse for everyone else. As Brené Brown reminds us:
“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.”
However, another reason I no longer respond in this way is that I used to be there myself. Raised in a fundamentalist church culture, I held much of the same beliefs, used some of the same arguments, and felt deeply about the quality of my convictions and motivations. And it is the genuine experience of confident conviction that my beliefs were right and my intentions truly loving that gives me pause today. I truly and deeply…