Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Loving words

I find myself dwelling on my self-editing post from last week, because I’ve realized I carry that same habit into my online life. I have a number of Facebook ‘friends’ with vastly divergent ideological leanings, and far too many of my shared commentary, news items, etc., evoke passionate, often rude, response. The really rude ones I block; I don’t need more negativity in my life. If we can’t have a calm, rational debate about the issue at hand, don’t bother commenting. I try very hard not to post inflammatory items, only thoughtful opinions from various viewpoints.

Maybe too hard?

I’ve noticed that in the past few weeks, after a particularly disheartening series of exchanges with a family ‘friend,’ my habits have changed. First, I’ve blocked his posts. They are nearly always accompanied by snide tags that do nothing to further useful debate. They seem designed to incite argument. But now I find that, when it comes to my own posts, I’m second- and third-guessing myself. Will this news story offend someone? How will my ‘friends’ react to this editorial? Am I, in my random expressions of commonality with other writers, fanning the flames of the dissension I avoid on his wall? How productive is that, especially since I’ve chosen to avoid his thoughts? Maybe he is just as sincere in his desire to engage as I am, but simply less skilled in expressing himself. Or not.

Yes, I know, way over-thinking again, as always. However, I’ve found I keep coming back to the whole self-editing thing, at least for the past year or so (here: 120909 and here: 021110) as I’ve gotten serious about my writing, so it’s obviously an issue I need to resolve. Author and blogger Elle Strauss has a related post today called ‘Watch Your Mouth,’ so I know I am not alone in fretting over this.

I want my writing, and my life, to be open and honest as I share my journey in a search for truth in whatever form it may appear. Not a beat-an-opponent-over-the-head variety that will slam-dunk an argument, but a liberating freedom from falsity that can relieve the suffering we all face. In the Christian Bible, Ephesians talks about speaking the truth in love, something I try to do always. And in Martine Batchelor’s wonderful The Spirit of the Buddha, she talks about sati and sampajanna. Not only are we to be mindful and conscious of our actions (sati) but to “have a clear perception of one’s behavior” and its effect on the greater community (sampajanna). “One will therefore have to restrain certain desires... because one knows that it will be beneficial for each individual, who is also part of that community.”

That needs to be my focus in all this internal debate. Are my words – whether original or shared thoughts – loving and beneficial to my community?


  1. Anonymous7:22 PM

    Makes me consider my own responses to people's post. I often find myself playing the devil's advocate despite my views on a given topic. I enjoy a good debate and prefer to offer an alternative view if all views posted are along one line of thought. Maybe I should be sure those post are on point and not inflammatory. Remind me to watch my mouth.

  2. On-topic debate is always good, and what I strive for! It's the off-base, intentionally baiting stuff that I need to avoid. As hubby says, don't feed the trolls.

  3. Very nicely put. And I think that challenge of conflict is something we're always navigating.


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