Monday, 15 August 2011

Be kind

After all these years online, it still never fails to shock me that people can use such cruel, mocking, and biting words when hidden behind the anonymity of a computer screen.

Things that would never be said to another's face are gleefully shared through email, on Facebook, in forums, and on blogs, sometimes masked behind motives of being "direct" and "for your own good" while other times unabashedly mean-spirited. The venomous words seem to flow even more freely when the writer knows he or she won't have to be held accountable for them by anyone they know. As much as I seek to avoid it, it seems that I stumble across this sort of thoughtlessness and cruelty every day. Some days I want to leave the online world altogether; I do not want to become hardened to such unkindness.

Why do we tear one another down this way? My heart sinks at the spiteful words I read, at the assumptions and accusations, at the judgment and derision. I wonder at the way a person can take the actions and beliefs of another, exaggerate them to the extreme, and then mock them mercilessly. I am saddened by the lack of love, the determination to tear down, and the pride.

Woman against woman. Mother against mother. Person against person. Who needs persecution or oppression when we will so freely tear down our own?

I know I cannot change the heart of another. I can only examine my own heart, my own words. What pride do I harbor? What assumptions and judgments do I make? Do I use my own words to build up and encourage, or to tear down and belittle?

Every moment presents a choice, and those choices shape us. There is only this moment, and in it I must choose. What will I think? say? do? How will I have spent it when it passes by? What can I do in this moment to be the person I desire to be?

Not only before I speak, but before I write, I must be sure my words are true, useful, encouraging, kind, and gentle. Even if I think no one I know will read them, I am responsible and accountable for my words.

May I take this opportunity to say thank you, my dear readers, for your own kind and uplifting words? I am grateful that this space has always been free of mocking and unkindness. Even where you have disagreed with me, you have said so respectfully, and you have allowed me the courtesy of dialogue to better understand where the other is coming from. You have given me encouragement, perspective, accountability, and cause to continue writing.

I am glad you are here.

6 comments:

  1. "Every moment presents a choice, and those choices shape us. There is only this moment, and in it I must choose. What will I think? say? do? How will I have spent it when it passes by? What can I do in this moment to be the person I desire to be?" I was just saying as much to Raiden, yesterday. We'd been fighting, and I made sure to tell him at bedtime that I love him, I ALWAYS love him, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, even when I'm mad I always love him. He asked, "Even when I'm a grown up?" "Yep, always." "Even when I'm a teenager?" "Yep, even when you're a teenager." He said, "But I'll hurt your feelings!" and started crying, saying he never wants to be a teenager! (Oh, how I want this recorded for posterity when he is a teenager!)

    I told him that if he doesn't want to hurt my feelings when he's a teenager, he doesn't have to; he gets to make choices all the time about how he acts, and if he doesn't want to be a teenager that hurts his mom's feelings, he doesn't have to. But if he does hurt my feelings, it's okay, and I'll still love him.

    I'm really trying to instill in him that he has choices about what type of person he wants to be, because that is absolutely the case, always, in every moment.

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  2. Totally agree! As much as I've loved the opportunities for community that the internet has brought into my life, I am far too often shocked at the level of cruelty and lack of respect that the relative anonymity can bring out in people. Words have so much power to tear down or build up.

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  3. Karyn, we've been having some of those "but will you love me when..." conversations around here too. I love the way you phrased his actions as a choice (but let him know you'd love him either way).

    Laura, I love the community I've found here too. If only the anonymity didn't seem to make people forget the power their words have.

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  4. The level of vulnerability and intimacy of blogging is interesting. As bloggers, we tend to accept it to a point - hoping that sending our words out will be safe. But being vulnerable is just that - vulnerable. And we leave ourselves open to attack.

    It's hard. I was recently caught off-guard by some comments that a person from my past thought was hidden, but it linked back to a guest post on a website. I'm still at a loss as to how to handle the situation - if I should say anything or let it be. I'm just thankful to be grounded in where I am - in family, friends, and marriage. They help me remember to let these things go and pray for those that hurt me.

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  5. It truly is a vulnerable position, Rachel. Even after four years of blogging, I have to confess I still feel nervous before reading each new comment - will this be the comment that mocks or belittles my words? Will this be the comment that scorns my position? I encourage dialogue with those who disagree with me, but the cruel and venomous words that people seem inclined to use online are something else entirely.

    I'm sorry you were caught off-guard by some unexpected comments lately. That's a difficult position to be in, trying to decide how to handle it. I hope things work out for good in the end, and I'm glad there are people around you that keep you grounded. What an important support system; thank you for bringing that up.

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