You’ve done it. I’ve done it.
Some current event makes your blood boil, your fist clenches as you read other responses, you see things with such blinding clarity that you’ve never been more certain of anything in your life, you realize that the world must must hear your perspective, you include humor that is biting and laugh out loud funny, or perhaps your rhetoric soars on the wings of a bald American eagle. The words fly from your keyboard onto the screen in front of you. They are sure to win hearts and minds, sure to cower the opposition in front of you, sure to change very tide of culture wars in America (and quite possibly the world).
It can happen on Twitter, on your blog, over email, and (especially it seems) on Facebook. It can be about politics, or pop culture, or the economy, or local politics, or some theological controversy.
What is a “rant” though? At the risk of being cute, while a rant is hard to define, we can all recognize it when we see it. The intent matters–it’s not meant really to inform or engage (especially those who think differently) but to mock, destroy, and tear down. And the form of it matters–there’s no nuance, no qualification, no care about being misunderstood.
Now I’ll be the first to say that there’s a place for strong words in the public sphere, that the Bible itself includes strong words, and sometimes they are desperately needed. But too often our rants aren’t careful and focused or even aimed at the right targets. They are like hand grenades indiscriminately lobbed into the battle, sometimes (often?) doing more harm than good.
And yet I’ve ranted. I’ve deleted strings of Twitter comments and Facebook posts. There are drafts of blog posts that should not see the light of day.
And here’s the problem: in the moment we’re about to rant what we need to say seems so important that it can’t wait for editing or nuance or input from close friends. But in reality there are many many more helpful things we can do. I’m not saying never post about politics or theology on Facebook, I’m saying that there are many, many (many!) times we should do other things instead.
In an effort to serve I humbly offer 99 things more helpful than ranting on Facebook:
1. Pray for the issue. Take a few minutes and talk to God about the issue you see, ask for mercy and justice in difficult situations.
2. Pray for yourself. Ask God to help your writing to be informed by a deep love for God and love for your neighbors.
3. Pray for your “opponents.” Jesus instructs us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Pray for them and ask for God to help you love them.
4. Dig Into Scripture With the Topic. Fired up about something? The government? Racial issues? It’s worth taking the 15 minutes you want to use to rant and look up key Bible passages instead, meditate on them, and absorb them. You’ll find yourself wiser on the issue at hand should you really need to speak out.
5. Read some long-form writing or research data about the topic. We live in a world of surface-level opinions and posts. Shut down social media and look up some research journalism and data on the topic. You’ll be better informed.
6. Read a book about the topic. If you are really suddenly passionate about poverty or abortion or race-relations then surely you’ll want to think deeply about the topic, right? Good thinking.
7. Read a second, third, and fourth book on the topic. You don’t think one book is enough to weigh in authoritatively on such a complicated issue do you? Good call.
8. Find a real person and have a conversation with someone who agrees with you. If you’re posting for the benefit of friends, to encourage them to think well about an issue, perhaps it would be better simply to talk to a friend one on one and at length about the issue. You’ll both come away thinking more clearly.
9. Find a real person and have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. It’s easy to make judgments and mischaracterize your opponents when they’re not really in front of you. Be respectful and have a genuine dialogue.
10. Get some (more) friends that disagree with you. If everyone in your circle of friends and relationships agrees with you on everything, you’ve probably got a problem.
11. Share the good news of Jesus with someone who doesn’t know it. Concerned about the cultural slide you perceive around you? While we should engage many issues in the public sphere we should also, and more frequently, be sharing the good news of Jesus with people around us. There are so many issues in our world that can’t be healed except by Jesus, so share him today.
12. Ask for input. Talk to a trusted and wise friend. Share what you want to say with them and get some input on your content, tone, and heart.
13. Save it for later. While rant posts often feel incredibly urgent, real issues linger for more than a news cycle. Consider saving the post(s), and revisiting them the next day.
14. Do more research on the thing you want to rant about. Chances are this is a topic you could know more about before you offer your authoritative opinion.
15. Research the best version of the argument you want to oppose. Don’t pick the worst possible representation of your opponent, tackle the best. It’ll strengthen your thinking and force you to be precise in your writing.
16. Find a local connection to the topic you care about. Concerned about the poor, or about the spread of pornography, or damaging economic policies? Find where that big issue connects with your community on a local level. Then research not America as a whole, but your own local community.
16. Join local organization about a topic you care about. There are so many good non-profits and organizations in your city and community that need a lot of help. If there’s a connection between the work they’re doing and an issue you care about, then volunteer some time.
17. Get involved with politics on the local level. It’s far easier to post political rants on Facebook than show up and try to help with a political group on the local level. If you can do it graciously, humbly, and with joy this might be a great idea to influence your community and could have ripple effects higher up.
18. Send a note of encouragement to someone who needs it. Did you remember to pray for the prayer requests shared at that last church meeting? Did you follow up with that friend in trouble? Those should be a little higher on all our priority lists.
19. Pray for your elected officials. 1 Timothy 2:2 commands us to do this. We should do this all the time, for both those we agree with and those we disagree with. We should especially do it before we post something critical.
20. Pray for your pastor. Chances are your pastors are wrestling with the same issues you’re wrestling with, but in the midst of a backlog of emails and counseling appointments. Don’t assume they don’t care about an issue just because they haven’t brought it up in a sermon or conversation. Pray that God would give them wisdom to lead the church on those issues.
21. Pray for unity. The issue you’re about to rant about probably has the potential to bring disunity to your local church. Perhaps there are some new believers who are starting from a very different place on that issue, and you could alienate them easily. Pray that God would build your church’s unity around the gospel.
22. Go for a walk or go work out, get sleep, and eat well. If you care about issues passionately we want you around for a long time. So take 15 minutes and be a good steward of your body by exercising, going to bed early, or saying no to that third bowl of ice cream.
23. Date your spouse. If you’re married one of the best things you can do for long-term cultural impact on a massive number of cultural issues is to stay faithful to your spouse. Is your rant more important than asking them about their day, encouraging them, or reading together?
24. Love your kids. If you have kids one of the best thing you can do for long-term cultural impact is to spend time with your kids. They’ll be speaking to issues you’ll never be able to speak to because you’ll be senile or dead. And your relationship as a family will have a massive impact on those around you over time.
25-99. Avoid clickbait phrases, terms, and headlines for the sake of attention. You’ll hit emotional buttons that will cut off conversation and devolve things into a shouting match. Plus when you overpromise and under-deliver you’ll frustrate readers who didn’t really get “One Phrase That Explains Everything About Racism” or “99 Things More Helpful Than Ranting on Facebook.” I mean come on, aren’t you a little disappointed in the title of this post now? Yeah, so don’t do that to people.