Cutting through the Controversy: Communicating in an Angry Culture

A week ago, I heard a story about a baker in Edmonds, Wash. whose Valentine cookies have soured many people.  Bakery owner Kenneth Bellingham decorated heart-shaped frosted cookies with the statement, “Build the Wall” as a light-hearted treat intended for his daughter-in-law. Instead of boxing them, an uninformed employee put the cookies in the display case.  Bet you can guess the rest – an offended customer snapped a picture and posted it to social media. Cue the media circus.

Remember flipping on late night comedy and unwinding after a long day? It was like a nationwide collective laugh before we called it a day. Comedy these days consists of finger-pointing and tongue-lashing. Even bloodied and severed dummy heads (as if that could pass for comedy).

The same could be said for Hollywood award shows. Wasn’t it just five years ago Ellen hosted and posed for a fun star-studded selfie?  And we all sweetly sighed, “aww”.  A few years later, and it’s not about who is walking the red carpet and who gets the little statues.  Controversy surrounds who is hosting this year. There will be no emcee because no one can pass the perfect human litmus test.

We’re arguing about all this and more – school kids and Native Americans, kneeling and standing, the National Anthem and the Super Bowl Half Time Show, politicians and the State of the Union. The list goes on and on. The angry buzz does not stop.

Is nothing fun anymore? Must everything come with a side of squabble?

For those of us whose businesses are all about serving others with our words, this polarizing world can put us on edge. Everything we do and say can be video-recorded, shared, re-tweeted, ranked, and rated. It could be easy to do nothing for fear of something, anything, rattling a couple of cages and reverberating across social media. Heck, I seriously debated writing and posting this for that very reason.

But here’s the thing, Christian woman entrepreneur: we were called to represent Christ well. That means we show up for the party of life and engage the culture. We make friends, fill needs, serve clients, and we take risks.  We walk that line between the darkness of this world and the hope that is to come.  Our businesses are the conduit God uses to bless us all with His common grace.

We are called to:

  • Be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16).
  • Bring Jesus’ healing words to a hurting people (Romans 12:15).
  • Speak a soft word to defuse the bombs of nasty words and harsh criticisms (Proverbs 15:1).
  • Love the unlovable (Luke 6:27).
  • Rescue the oppressed and bring down the proud (Psalm 82:4).

In the words of the wise King Solomon, “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24, NLT). Just as our words can bring health, our silence creates calm, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:27, NLT).

It’s possible we may never become embroiled in a situation that causes contention or trouble. Perhaps, though, if we never ruffle any feathers, our lives might not resemble Christ. Remember how he turned over the tables of the money changers in temple? He ruffled more than a few feathers that day. He represented truth, and so must we.

As our culture slides further from our Christian roots, evil is called good and good is called evil (Isaiah 5:20). When we express godly words and actions, it can offend those who are not walking in the light, and this can put us on the receiving end of harsh words. Stand firm and on the foundation of truth. Paul wrote, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6).

Our careful use of words can be refreshing when we sincerely seek God and follow His lead in our businesses and our daily lives. In this, our work is a mission field. In this, we can restrain what is often the fast and loose social media highway. In this, we are free to focus on today and the task at hand – and let God do our heavy lifting. We can be free to serve people, plain and simple.