Friday, October 19, 2012

I Don't Want To Be Controversial

Many years ago – back when my children were just a distant dream – some friends and I were hanging out and ended up taking one of those silly magazine quizzes. I think it had something to do with values, and the idea behind it was that most men chose one set of answers while most women chose the other set of answers, but anyway, one of the questions asked which you would rather your children remember you teaching them – right from wrong, or not to hurt others.

Of course I want to be remembered for both, but I could only choose one, and being the softie that I am, I was the only one of the group who chose ‘not to hurt others’ (which is apparently the more common female choice, just in case you were wondering).
An argument ensued about why teaching right from wrong was more important – and I don’t disagree – but the question asked which you wanted to be remembered for. My thinking was that as a nurturer, my role in my children’s life was to teach kindness and compassion, while a father’s role was more about teaching solid values. Both parents should obviously be role models in both of those areas, but I guess I’m simply a traditionalist in feeling that children should remember their mother’s gentleness and remember their father for his discipleship. And ideally those individual roles should mesh together in a beautiful weaving.

Anyway, my purpose in explaining all of that is so that you can perhaps gain a better understanding about a certain aspect of my personality. I do not like to hurt others or see others hurt, so much so that I chose that answer.
I realize most ‘normal’ people don’t want to see others hurt, but I’m talking about being that way to a fault. I probably hold back words when I shouldn’t (I should speak up but don’t for fear of offending someone), and I definitely try too hard. By that I mean I can be overly polite or struggle so hard to say the perfect thing and keep from offending that maybe I just end up annoying instead.

I don’t know – maybe that’s not true. It’s just how I see it.
When I began this blog, my intention was to always keep it encouraging and to steer clear of controversial topics. That isn’t because I don’t find them to be important or because I don’t have strong opinions on current events (I do), but because I asked myself what I wanted this blog to be, and one thing I didn’t want it to be was divisive.

The problem is I’m beginning to see that no topic is completely safe from controversy.
Take a look at my Facebook news feed and you’ll see that I have friends from all walks of life. You’ll see a vast variety of religious, political, and social beliefs, and while I find myself feeling a bit like Samuel L. Jackson at times,
When do you stay silent and when do you speak up

I try my darndest to be respectful.

It’s too easy to be misunderstood in social media. People already have assumptions about you based on the very little they already know, so having web debates never quite feels pure. Sometimes I feel like I’m already being looked at through a dirty lens, you know? So what’s the point?

Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have discussions about issues that are important to us. I’m all for intelligent discourse. The part that confounds me is when people start getting outright hateful by making far-reaching judgments about entire groups or by allowing their anger to blind them from the implications that exist within their words.

Consider how hurtful your bias may be. Consider what your words truly mean and what they say about you. Consider that your judgment might actually be quite arrogant and born out of experiences from your past that are no longer relevant. Consider that you’re wrong. Consider that even if you are right, the manner in which you speak your words can have profound, lasting effects on the soul to whom you’re speaking.
Or maybe not even to whom you’re speaking – just a passerby who happens to see your post or read your comment.

Luckily, I’m not easily offended. I have a pretty broad sense of humor and a fairly high tolerance for bad manners. But I do get hurt. We all do, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. It’s just unavoidable when we’re in the midst of a social universe unlike one that’s ever previously existed.
More often than not, though, I get angry, and it’s an anger that comes from a place of deep conviction and passion. I’m sure that, especially right now, most of us can relate to that. My hope is that, despite my anger, my words will always come from a place of love – though I know my humanity will prevent me from achieving that.

That’s why I keep quiet. That’s why I stay out of it. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to offend. I don’t want my passion to put me in a place of vulnerability.
But then again, that’s life, and how am I to avoid it unless I squelch that passion?

Just as in all things in life, there is a balance, and I’m struggling to find it. When do you stay silent, and when do you speak up for what’s right?