Tactics and Tools

Ignore the Negative Noise

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 05/04/2017

For this month’s Solid Ground, Greg analyzes an atheist’s article by going through the steps he introduced in February’s mentoring letter:

If you recall, I told you to first clarify the claim, what I called “the big idea.” Get a fix on exactly what’s being charged or asserted. What’s the specific point the challenge is meant to persuade you of? Second, list the reasons the person thinks his charge against your view is legitimate. This is the “because” factor. Your friend is right and you are wrong because of something. What is that? Finally, do an assessment taking one point at a time asking if the reasons support the big idea.

You can read his analysis of the atheist’s arguments here. For now, I wanted to draw your attention to the advice Greg begins with:

Before I dive in, let me give you a general tip for navigating discussions like this. Discipline yourself to ignore the negative noise.

In parleys about emotionally charged issues, especially spiritual ones, it’s not unusual for disparaging, derisive, or sarcastic language to creep into the conversation. In Carter’s case, phrases like “the belief system they are trying to sell us,” and “even on our deathbeds we would have to simply trust that we weren’t sold a bill of goods” are part of the rhetorical gamesmanship meant to subtly color the discussion.

Don’t take it personally and don’t be distracted by that kind of chatter. Whether you’re reading an article or having a conversation, try to tune out the negative noise. In the long run, the rhetorical “spin” doesn’t count in the assessment. Sidestep anything that sounds snarky or snide. Let it go and focus on the substance.

This isn’t just good advice to help you think straight, it’s also what we’re called to do as Christians who represent Christ:

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously….

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead…. (1 Pet. 2:21–23; 3:8–9)

It’s easy to let negative needling goad you into responding in kind or worse, but we’re called to answer negative noise with grace and kindness because, according to 1 Peter, that is a significant part of how we fulfill our purpose of “proclaim[ing] the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).