Toxic Rudeness and Christianity

By Fr John Hogg

I’ve noticed over the last few years a shift in cultural norms that concerns me. Specifically, it seems to be becoming not only acceptable, but even actively applauded when people respond to perceived rudeness with more rudeness in return.

Along the same vein, I see people, many of whom I generally respect, “laugh reacting” serious comments made by people that they disagree with, as if to say that the person they disagree with isn’t even worth common courtesy or respect.

As Christians, it is especially important that we don’t give into these sorts of trends. The cynicism and lack of maturity that underlie these kinds of behaviors is toxic to our hearts and to our faith.

Mocking things that people say seriously, as long a they’re of good will, rather than engaging with them, shows that our faith is still only a matter of the head, not of our heart and behavior. Sometimes, of course, it’s clear that other people are speaking out of malice, rather than good will, but in those cases, it’s probably best to just leave the conversation.

And returning rudeness for rudeness, rather than with kindness is an understandable temptation in the moment, but it is the wrong response. We don’t have control over other people’s words, but when we are rude, it says something about us, rather than the other person. It also shows that we are forgetting that our goal should be to win our neighbor, rather than just to win the fight.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:38-48

Used by permission. All rights Reserved. Fr John Hogg is rector of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids, MI.