Thursday, May 13, 2010

If You Can't Say Something Nice. . .

Recently several folks whom I really love or admire have been experiencing nasty attacks of gossip and mean-spirited words.  I've also noticed what seems to be an upswing of nasty comments or hurtful interactions on some of my favorite blogs lately. I've even read several blogs and forums in which the participants are considering shutting down their sites or their part of the activities.  All because of hateful words that one or two folks can't seem to keep to themselves. I must be living with my head in the clouds or something, because I can.NOT. believe some of the things that folks feel free to say to, or about, others. I am shocked at the decidedly ugly things commenters write to bloggers.

I have to admit, it's been really hard for me to remain supportive and encouraging to my friends or loved ones without becoming bitter or angry at those who are causing such hurt. I'm a loyal person by nature. I'm also a fairly positive person.  I love and trust easily and (I hope!) freely. But when a friend is attacked, I get riled and  . . . if you go after a family member?  Well, fuggedaboudit.  Just. Step. Away. From. The. Angry. Momma.

However, in my own journey as a Christian woman, I've found that I must also maintain a constant state of alert to the criticism and judgments that I feel rising up within me. When a discussion becomes a debate, when comments become personal attacks and topics get "too close for comfort,"  I find myself fighting to rein in my own criticisms and disagreements. I have to try to edit myself in a more positive and constructive manner that will allow the conversation to continue and maybe even be productive. More often than not, I advise myself of the old adage "when you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." 

It's a constant battle, and likely more so for me because I love to talk. I love to share my thoughts. I'm not immune to the shock of reading something with which I strongly disagree. In fact, it has happened quite recently. I reacted in the privacy of my own home, ranted really. And then I sought counsel. I tempered my response and offered A. thought. Just one. Then I stopped. I just stopped. Because IF I had let myself really say all that my critical, judgmental self wanted to say, I'd have offended a sister in Christ. A believer who is muddling along, trying to find her way in a new situation, just like me. Just like you. Aren't we all trying to figure it out?!

When things get really heated and a conversation turns into a debate, I start to feel frantic, fighting the NEED to share my thoughts. To make my point and gain understanding. If that cannot happen, I usually shut down. Sometimes, I MAKE myself shut down to avoid crossing my own lines of temptation to unleash my barrage of anger, criticism, judgment or hurt. I disengage from the cycle. Hopefully, at this stage of my life, I'm disengaging earlier and pulling away with more wisdom and discernment than in earlier years. Hopefully, I've learned SOMETHING about the power of my tongue (or my words and my writing).
As I've been hearing the pain of my friends and loved ones, and reading the stories of bloggers who have felt attacked or misunderstood, I've been grieved. My heart has ached for the pain inflicted. But a sense of anger and frustration has also lingered. I am angry at the way we conduct ourselves in our various communities. I have asked myself countless times what I can be and should be doing differently. In my personal relationships. In my blogging interactions. Normally, I completely avoid talking about controversial subjects here on this blog.  I just couldn't avoid this particular frustration any longer.

At the risk of sounding hopelessly idealistic and naive, I want to ask, "Why can't we all just get along?"  Can we at least try to change our own reactions? Temper how we connect with each other? Respect that we come at these conversations and experiences from different angles? That we might actually be able to learn from another if we can keep our tongues leashed long enough to really listen? We instead often sound like discordant, clanging cymbals that make unbearable noise. Our words, written or spoken, can create chaos in the ears and the mind and the heart.

As a Christian, I believe that the Creator made us all with unique talents and gifts. That these talents and gifts combine with our life experiences to be used to honor God. To be used to show the world around us a better way to live. To be used to show someone the beauty, the freedom, and the redemption of becoming "like Christ."  If we allow ourselves to be used as instruments in HIS HANDS, if we work harder at speaking with restraint and with love, we can be a beautiful masterpiece that blends together to make a symphony.  We can let our voices be heard in a harmony, that encourages one another and lifts up the arms of those around us.

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

~ St. Francis of Assisi  ~


ComfyDenim said...

I love you!!!
There's a part of me that wants to fight injustice!!!

And you know what?? - part of bringing peace is fighting that injustice - even if you're a listening ear.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Ah, my dear. You hit a nail on the head for me. Yes, often when I speak up or want to speak up, it's because of a desire to speak out against an injustice that I perceive. That's when I step back, temper my words, and find one central thought to share. The rest of the "stuff" that I may be feeling clouds the issue. And listening rather than speaking is always more challenging to me, which is why I should practice it more :)

"A troublemaker plants seeds of strife, gossip separates the best of friends" ~ Proverbs 16:28

"Disregarding another person's faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends." ~ Proverbs 17:9

The Gang's Momma! said...

from my sister, via Facebook:

"From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." We will never control our tongues if we don't start by asking the Father to control our hearts. We must learn to speak the love... and love always protects, covers a multitude of sins.

If we truly love a brother or sister, then the ugly words, the nasty gossip and the judge-y won't come spewing out of our "word hole." Instead, think about what is true, noble, trustworthy...etc. about that person.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD!"

If I find myself thinking or saying unkind things about someone, that is the time I need to repent and ask for help loving that person.

Lauren at Dragonflie's Journey said...

It's so funny that you talk about this today. My students have been very disprespectful towards differing groups of individuals at school and for the past few days I just sat back and listened. And today I took my stand. In a peaceful, loving manner (at least I hope it was) I told them that I didn't care what their views were. I didn't care what they believed or thought. But I DID VERY MUCH care how they expressed them and that they had to, more than anything else, respect the views, beliefs, and actions of others...ESPECIALLY those they disagreed with. I find myself in similar struggles often, but I find that when I sit back and listen, my silence teaches a lesson bigger than any speech on a soap box. Much love to you, T.

heidi @ ggip said...

I know this is a reminder that I often need to hear. I occasionally still participate in debates, because they aren't bad in and of themselves, but they can go bad, depending.

I have to say that it does seem like an epidemic -- the disrespect and intolerance.

And changing it does start with me, huh....

Natalie said...

There was a story on GMA this morning about the teacher who beat up a student in the classroom. The GMA parenting expert then offered her two cents and basically said the same things as everyone above. That rudeness and blatant disrespect in action and words has become an epidemic...not just for kids but for adults as well.

On another note, a high school friend on FB posted a politically charged status and another HS FB friend responded with her viewpoint. Whoa Nelly!! So much for civil discourse. The first friend ended up "unfriending" the second girl just b/c she didn't agree with her.

Not sure what the answer is, but I think our ability to write our thoughts (good and bad) in the privacy of our homes, from behind our computers has empowered people to take the gloves off and stop editing themselves. It's easy to spew garbage about someone when you don't have to look them in the face and see the hurt in their eyes. It's easy to spread gossip when you don't have to see the tears in someone's eyes. Our anonymity (sp?) has become a license for what we feel is justified "free speech" when all it really is is hate speech.

Look at all the bullying that goes on with kids on FB. The kids who have committed suicide b/c of what has been said on FB or through text messages.

Nuff said. Going to go start a fight somewhere...I'm feeling spunky :)

Aus said...

Morning GM - you're on a good roll here....but if everybody would do that I'd be out of work (we could be so lucky - and I'd welcome the lay off!!)

Interesting that you would quote a hero of mine - Francis of Assisi - but the next stanza is the best...."Oh Master grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console - TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS TO UNDERSAND - to be loved as to love with all my soul..." That's what's missing in this world today - everyone is trying to be understood - but refusing to understand the other guy...what's in it for me - not what can I do for you....

I've been reading novels about US and UK history during WW II - if Hitler appeared today, with today's 'attitudes' - I'm thinking we'd have lost that war....

Just keep on loving, living, and hugging - the kids we raise today will change tomorrow!

hugs - aus and co.

The Gang's Momma! said...

You are right, Aus. That end of the quote is missing. I'm remedying that now.

And it's interesting that you bring up the WWII thing - we were just talking about that this weekend. In this culture of "free speech" and "it's right for ME" ethics and "tolerance gospels," I'm sure you aren't far off in your assumptions. Scary.

But yes, our kids will be world-changers. We MUST pour that into them. We will raise them up to speak Truth, not reality. To love and carry peace. To shine the LIGHT of the world. We will.

My Little Nest said...

Hi gal. I haven't been on here for a while, but this topic interested me because I am constantly reminding the kids to speak kindly, and in a manner that pleases God, and to "filter" what they say at all times. Unfortunately, I think it's the new "normal" for kids to slam each other. It's the way they talk to each other on tv shows, and in the world. More unfortunately, it's also the new norm for ADULTS. It's such a shame, and a terrible example for our kids. I don't ever wonder WHY kids are nasty or angry towards each other anymore...I know where it comes from. As others have already said so eloquently, we can only stop the hatred and ignorance by being an example to others around us...which means biting our tongue, encouraging one another, and standing up for what is right in a civil way.

Joan said...

Thanks for posting,

in particular for the Sesame Street song, I've never heard it, but it was quite cute and fitting!