The way I see it

I was pouring out my heart to Andrew about something earlier and he said “You should write a blog post about that”.

I grimaced. He noticed, and asked why.

I’ve grown quiet in most spheres. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, everything to the contrary actually. Enter our home or car and you’ll soon discover that, as a family, we all have PLENTY to say!

But, do you read blogs? Do you go on Facebook, ever? Do you listen to, or engage in conversations around you? Do you read newspapers, more specifically, the letters and comments in response to articles posted?

I was going to say “perhaps it’s just me” but I know it’s not. Good news is hard to come by. This past week water shortages, drought and a prolonged heat wave have brought my country to her knees. The attacks in France have brought the world to her knees. And splattered in between and among those heart-breaking stories are more heart-breaking stories of the terrible things happening in our homes, communities, countries and indeed across the whole wretched globe every moment of every day.

That’s just the current events. Then we have news of the more personal kind. Facebook and Twitter. Bloggers sharing their stories and perspectives on their blogs and websites. WhatsApp chat groups, emails, radio show hosts and callers-in and I suppose TV shows too (we don’t have TV, so I’m guessing there). And then the rubber hits the road with face-to-face communications: across the dinner table and at parties and gatherings, at book club, at Church, in the staff room or around the copier at the office, our children’s school events and sports clubs and so on.

It’s not really the sharing of stories or news that is the problem. It’s the response to them. It seems to me that we have fallen so in love with our own opinions that thoughtfulness for the recipient of whatever comment we think is important enough to toss back at them has been unceremoniously thrown under the bus. A decade ago many would apologise upfront, prefacing what they knew was going to be offensive with the “no offence BUT….” that I grew to hate. Yes, I said it. Hate. I always wondered why someone would knowingly say something offensive, and if they really thought saying “No offence but…” excused them.

But now we just open our mouths, or set our fingers flying across the keyboard, and let rip.

I’ve noted a growing trend of defensiveness as a result. We cannot say a jolly thing without desperately needing to anticipate the negative responses and nip them in the bud, or justify ourselves, or defend something we’ve done, said or stood for. So we spend as much time, space and energy emphasising what we’re NOT saying as we do just saying whatever it is we want to say.

(And here’s my own bit of pre-empting: my feelings here are based almost entirely on what I’ve observed, not what I’ve experienced. I’d lie if I said no amount of poison or ridiculous response to something I’ve said or written somewhere had ever been spewed in my direction. I’m a homeschooling Christian mother of 5 with stronger-than-average views on politics, social issues and society in general. I’d live in a bubble if I didn’t know people consider me “intimidating” and “opinionated”. But my feelings about this are not based on those few personal experiences.)

Of course we are all entitled to our own opinions. I’m not of the same school of thought as my father who used to tell me “if I wanted you to have an opinion, I’d give you one”. But I also think that in this day and age of fluctuation and the breathless rate of change all around us, we’d have some respect for different views. Discussion, constructive criticism and even disagreement are healthy; harsh criticism, lack of empathy, a refusal to seek to understand and outright hatred is not.

As I’ve watched us go from bad to worse in just how highly we treasure ourselves and own opinions regardless of the cost to others, I’ve simply but purposefully stepped back, wanting no part of it.

I have also watched some bravely endure, knowing that what they had to say was of value and worth the risk. Strangely enough, it is from these individuals (some on Facebook, some bloggers, some journalists, a few personal friends) that I’ve learnt the most.

Andrew’s response when I shared all this with him was not only a mutual feeling about the matter, but these words: “Well, I want to encourage you to write again. I think you have something to say.”

You’re free to disagree, of course. He has offered to moderate my comments section for me.