by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Living in an age where participation on social networking websites such as Facebook are an active part of our day, we get a glimpse of how many of us are reacting and responding to national and world events. And lately, I’ve been thinking about how quickly we seem to form an opinion.

Indeed, whenever some story hits the air waves, my Facebook friends get busy sharing their two cents worth. Don’t get me wrong here — I’m not passing judgment. I’ve certainly done the same.

But I do know better than to jump to conclusions. It’s just so easy to make that jump!

Anyone who has ever been reported on or interviewed by some news outlet would probably agree with me when I say that agenda or biased-free reporting is almost impossible to come by. Or at least that has been my experience and observation.

I have been part of a news story many times, and I don’t know of a time when some detail wasn’t misrepresented or my words weren’t misstated. Now I’m not saying inaccuracies have always had malicious intent. But there have been times when it was obvious that ill-will was the motivation.

Consequently, when I read or hear any news story online, in print or over the air waves, I’m not quick to assume that all the facts have been gathered and reported accurately. Oftentimes, omission is as blatant and purposefully done as what was wrongfully communicated. And both serve the purpose of presenting a biased perspective.

So whether talking to myself, to my husband or anyone else, I’ve found myself saying, “Remember, there’s more to this story than we know or have been told.”

This type of cautious reasoning when successfully practiced has enabled me to stay calm, kept my mind open, and made me capable and willing to learn and know the truth in the situation. Furthermore, this practice has kept my emotions under control and hopefully not let me draw premature — and therefore probably wrong — conclusions.

The entire first chapter of the epistle of James is full of wisdom and offers some constructive ideas when considered in regard to our perceptions and opinions as well as in our communications.

He writes, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4) I’ve found it important to utilize patience when gathering information on a news event or when waiting for the event to play out. In other words, predictions and fears are not always right and generally only hindsight offers the most accurate perspective. And when gathering facts and details, it’s important to utilize many sources in order to obtain the entire story.

A little further into the chapter he writes, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (James 1:14) Watch out for news coverage that pulls at the heart strings and stirs the emotions. Truly we do need to be sensitive to the plight of others and increase our empathy. But I’ve also found it important to be certain that the reporting is not trying to sensationalize a story in order to distort the truth to the point of making the truth unrecognizable. Maintaining our objectivity is pretty much impossible when our emotions guide our reason.

And he writes, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19) In our current times, news travels the globe at amazing speed. And I’m still awed that I can be in Texas and Google chat with a friend in Jerusalem. While this verse encourages the idea of being informed, I think it is also a warning against jumping to conclusions or letting our emotions confuse our reason and judgment — and they surely will do so.

Toward the end of the first chapter, he writes, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:25) When forming opinions and responding to news coverage, more and more I’m realizing the importance of prayer and meditation.

I can’t ponder and imagine what God sees and knows, and not perceive that anything is possible, fixable, and recoverable. I can’t ponder and imagine God’s love for all of His children, and not have compassion, acceptance and forgiveness of those I think are making wrong decisions or behaving inappropriately. And I can’t ponder and imagine God’s power and presence, and not have hope, faith and trust that everything will work out, that progress will be made, that lessons will be learned perhaps in spite of all our human failings and harmful actions.

While I will continue to spend hours of my day on Facebook and listening to and reading many news sources, I will continue to remember that there is always more to every story. And undoubtedly I will continue to learn that indeed there always is!