Earlier today I posted to Facebook and Google+ a link to an article by Professor Richard Beck outlining a particular break between Christian thought and behaviour. Beck had identified a thread of behaviour in Christian culture, which I am sure we’ve all seen as well: specifically the touting of Christian concepts while behaving in ways which don’t exemplify those same beliefs, and sometimes in ways which would appear to be even counter to them. At times, he challenged students, and those of us reading his article, with rather provocative words… which is, in all honesty, what got my attention and then held it. Go ahead, take a few minutes and give his article a read, I think you’ll find it worthwhile.
What struck me nearly immediately when reading Beck’s insights, wasn’t how Christians are saying one thing but doing another, but rather how closely the concepts he laid out mimicked ideas I’ve been very close to in the past few years. In particular, IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines. Sure, laugh it up, but hear me out on this…
The overarching theme in both IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and Beck’s article is simple: “Don’t be a jerk”. Sure, there’s other various refinements and distinctions in the specifics, but really, they both distill down to the same thing. In my particular case, I am always amazed at how truly brilliant my company’s guidelines really are and often use the key components far beyond just my work life. In fact a few of these guidelines from IBM can easily and directly translate to what Beck is speaking of as well:
- Respect your audience. If this isn’t obvious, well I don’t know what is. Can you imagine how this simple act would nearly wholly negate Beck’s article if we all abide by this guideline? Just imagine how many more ‘decent human beings’ would be part of this world!
- Be aware of your association. In IBM, we are reminded to be aware of how our actions and words can (and do) reflect on the company, that our social presences should reflect how we’d present ourselves to clients and colleagues. Likewise, in Beck’s examples, the Christians he has encountered could seemingly stand a reminder of this guideline as it seems their actions and words have reflected poorly upon the larger faith.
- Don’t pick fights. Another of the obvious tenets, but it goes on to also admonish us to be the first to correct our own mistakes. Not an easy task, but again, one which we could all benefit from regardless of our faith.
- Try to add value. This one may not be immediately obvious, but it does hold true for all of us as well; don’t add to the noise if you can’t provide worthwhile information and perspective. Imagine the shift we could see if Beck’s “Sunday morning lunch crowd” took this guideline to heart as well? Would he have such words as ‘entitled’, ‘dismissive’, or ‘haughty’ to define them, or would Beck be able to begin using phrases like ‘insightful’, ‘respectful’, and ‘engaging’ to define the same group?
And so it came to me as I was reading Beck’s article: there are indeed universal truths which we all know deep down, but often gloss over and/or simply forget at times. Universal truths, which by obvious definition span religions, cultures, and even corporations. Truths as simply profound, and simply encapsulated by, single phrases… of those, I’d say “Don’t be a jerk” may be the greatest singular universal truth demanded by all of humanity, but far too often forgotten by the same who preach it.
So, a call to action and a challenge: Take time this weekend and read IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines, then re-read Beck’s article and reflect on how you (we) can implement some small change in our daily lives to ensure, in time, beck’s article is proven outdated and no longer relevant. Perhaps we can start by asking ourselves “does this add value?” when we go to post something online, or “am I respecting my audience” when we’re out to each for Sunday lunch…
At the very least I’ll bet you’ll like yourself a little more… I’m sure I will 😉