We’ve hit a number of inadvertently controversial hotspots in the last two weeks, and while I loved hearing from you, I am coming out on the other side with a few observations, questions, and worries. This post is me talking honestly about them, so there are no elephants in the room.
I’ve noticed our tendency to escalation. When a conversation starts to get heated, it tends to increase that way: the mercury inching up, and up. Then it bleeds over into other conversations, other forums, other posts.
We’ve fielded comments in a wide range: from passionate to dogmatic to catty to aggressive to modest to shy.
I don’t want poking at each other to become our new tone of voice in this place.
I feel responsible for the discussion that happens here. I am the moderator, and this is my space. However, I am caught in something of a dilemma. If I remove the comments I object to (and believe me, I’ve been tempted), I create a false impression of community life. In the real world we don’t all agree, and we don’t say things perfectly even when our hearts are good or our positions correct, and if you stick your neck out somewhere you might get it bit into chunks and spit back out. I don’t want you thinking you can share strong soup (even in small batches) without repercussion, or wishing that real life would imitate social media. (Like! Like! Like!) I don’t want to create an illusory reality.
Nor do I want to shut down conversation. While as a Christian I want to avoid foolish questions and contentions, a good rip-roaring discussion is one of my favorite things.
But if I leave all comments standing as they are – and in the last few weeks, I have – I run the risk of hosting a place where sharing from the heart is no longer safe. You may be argued with and sat on. You may be validated when you should be rebuked, or judged when you should be cared for. You may be corrected by Alice’s interpretation of history and Joan’s choice of Scripture and Emily’s community wisdom and Sophie’s grandmother. Or praised for foolishness. Who knows? Then I feel like I’m not protecting you, or other readers who may be misled.
Third, and very importantly, I don’t want to talk about this so much that I scare you away from commenting at all. Hehee.
My own sins
But I have a few questions.
I am asking them of myself, in a life stage when I get easily fired up about everything, from my dog regurgitating on my porch to where the gals should meet up for coffee. My husband and the Lord are gently encouraging me to hold my tongue and receive.
Here is one example, at the risk of making you nervous that I’m talking about you. Which is statistically unlikely.
A couple of times in the last two weeks of blogging drama, I drafted a specific pushback that I thought was necessary and eloquent, oh yes very wise, and then (only then) I came before the Lord and said to him – Well? What do you think?
His response was clear, a sudden eye opening beyond my own wisdom. (Which was super exciting, even though it kind of stung, because it marked the first time I’ve heard from him outside of church for many months during this season of grief.) He was very gentle.
First, I saw that I had a desire to hurt and undermine a sister, as she had hurt and undermined. To make her look bad and me look good. (I just love when I realize sweet little stuff like this about my own heart.)
Second, I saw that I have struggled with my own nearly identical issues in the past. Underneath my pushback was the dark fear that I myself might be Like That. I was so determined to be Not Like That that I had to make it very clear I was not, even though as Christ shone his light around my heart I could see that I was: that I could relate very well to the exact mentality she was speaking from. Her thinking scared and offended me because it had been in me. And so I wanted to fight it, and her.
Third, when I went back to read the words I’d drafted, I could see now (only now) that they were not wise, but pointed and aimed, ready to fire.
So that response went into the dust bin where it belonged.
What does nonresistance mean in conversation?
What does wisdom look like?
If you’re like me, you usually skim Scripture references on blog posts. But would you read this one carefully? Maybe even out loud?
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
If I may paraphrase, we’re known first by our conduct and behavior, not by our position or our eloquence. The wisdom that comes from Jesus is not arrogant, but humble and ready to learn. It is not driven by self-interest at all, or by who is right and how that will make me look, but by the gentle, moldable desire for purity and peace.
Of course I am instantly pretty sure that I am on the white team, and a peacemaker.
Or am I?
How do you know if your own words are necessary? How do you tell if sharing a corrective (publicly or privately) is worth the pain you will cause? Does truth come first, or peace?
Shouldn’t our goal be the marriage of the two?
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalm 85:10)
My hope is for this space to be a safe one, where we share kindness even in disagreement, and where space for nuance and difference is actually a thing. For real. I’m not just getting postmodern on you. There are some issues I will never back down on – they are firm and certain in Scripture. But in other areas, truth and the Bible can be quoted on any side we please. We don’t all feel the same. Given this, we run a grave risk if we make all areas of life unequivocal.
But how do we talk about them well?
I really want to hear from you on this, even though I know the ones with the best wisdom may not feel a need to weigh in. (Yes, I am daring you. And also affirming.) But I want to learn, and I am inviting your thoughts.
Please make them kind.
No apologies will be accepted for past comments. 😊 It is not my goal to undercut you.