I’ve been blogging off and on for most of the last two decades. I don’t follow some of the big-name blogs anymore like I once did (some you know, others are big fish from the small pond). I recall from early times people like Ben Witherington or Scot McKnight occasionally would feature a post on blogging etiquette. Being Christian leaders, I suppose that was appropriate that they would attempt to police the blog-O-sphere and administer rules of politeness and virtue for the rest of us.
(However, in my view, they’ve had little impact on the world overall – that despite thousands of devoted followers.)
Guess, I am in good company (except for the part about thousands of followers). I have little impact too, but then I won’t try to police the blog-O-sphere though.
However, I do, from time to time, attempt to explain myself a bit. This is not the first time I have noted such matters on this blog. In fact, though I can’t think of the exact post right off, I am sure in recent weeks I addressed some of this. But perhaps I should try to be more thorough.
Consider this whole post to be something like the fine print of a contract you sign either way. Nothing in it is binding on you, but hopefully will lay out guidelines I will do my best to adhere to along the way.
Let me provide a map for this post before I just dive into it.
- I agree with points 2, 5, & 12 rather strongly. Point 15 illuminated something for me or even taught me something new. Thus, I like your post. However…
- I can’t FIX you, and so I won’t bother trying. But I will tell you the truth.
- I don’t know it all! However, I know quite a lot. The problem, of course, is…
- Bonus small print (for those just insanely interested in things I write – or stockers)
Let’s just jump right into this. No point dressing it up. Just rip that scab!
1. I agree…
Sometimes I sense this is the most difficult point to make. It is a little complex, but I think, really, it is just harder to accept than to understand once the issue rises to the surface where it must be dealt with (or ignored at the detriment of continued relations).
Normally when people write blogs, they try to make a point. Usually, making a point involves making several supporting points along the way. A few people keep it short, but most of the blogs I read require a blogger to make several assertions and sometimes defend all or some of them as part of a larger argument.
There is complexity in life, and blogs are a place people go to discuss them and iron them out.
This means your post is likely to have several points along the way to making the big point. Odds are good that I will agree with some or all of your post. More likely some than all. I recently found myself leaving a like and a comment on a blog which at first blush I thought I agreed with. However, after thinking on it carefully, I decided I only agreed in the most narrow sense and that the blogger was attempting to buttress a larger worldview I don’t actually share. It was a popular blog too, with lots of readers, likes, and comments.
It occurred to me quickly that I was ripe for an argument I don’t really want. Nevertheless, the blogger had made one or two points along the way I found important and which I agreed with strongly. This was a more extreme case than I what I usually engage. But it provides a good chance for me to demonstrate in THIS post that when I read your blog, I very likely agree with some of it, I might even be deeply impressed and learn something from it (this happens fairly frequently) and yet I would not necessarily endorse everything in it. In fact, there might be some bits I would argue against.
This and I still LIKE your post.
However, I am not apt to rush in and try to argue the points I differ with willy-nilly. In fact, I tend to lay out the bits I would find confrontational on MY blog and invite the argument here. But I would rather not get wolf-packed by all your ignorant friends with their support for your ignorance. I generally try to weigh that risk before I jump in, and generally I don’t find it worthwhile. So, I typically don’t go there.
But HEY! If I liked something, take that as a compliment. PLEASE! I will support the bits I either agree with or which I find enhances my knowledge.
The first time I read N.T. Wright, I thought he was nuts! I reread the book two more times for a test I was taking in school, and still was not persuaded. It was only after the test a few weeks later when I found myself suddenly appealing to something he said that I went back and read it again and began being won over to his argument. So, let’s leave room for that here too… please.
2. Can’t FIX you.
I’m already brushing up against this point in the previous one, but it bears working out on its own, I think. The fact of the matter is that I cannot fix you.
OH YOU NEED FIXING! I believe that whole-heartedly. But I can’t do it. Much as I might like to, I can’t. Like Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Well, this is one of mine. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need fixing. You do.
This old world is a mess. This wonderful nation is a mess. The greatest nation on earth! That’s what we used to say before we started making it great AGAIN. But that was probably propaganda, really. The kind of thing that surely is the definition of bias. But I digress. It’s a mess. And it can’t be that big a mess unless you need fixing.
(Okay, okay. I need fixing too, but that is point 3. So back off me a moment. Just now we are talking about you, not me, and you are in bad shape. Admit it – to yourself, of course.)
Right now it’s important that you – I DON’T CARE WHICH ONE OF YOU EITHER – you understand you need fixing. You are part of the problem. That is just a fact, and I ain’t so stupid to think otherwise, and I ain’t lying for ya neither. You are a mess. Your world is a mess. That is part of the point of my whole blog.
But if the futility of blogging has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t fix you.
But if you listen and pray on it, you might be part of the solution to your own fixing.
I will leave that to you and God.
Meanwhile, I will do my best to show you some respect, and let you find fixing I don’t manipulate for you.
3. Don’t know it all.
Yeah. I am part of the problem too. And this point is my own humility.
I am not going to make it my practice to open each sentence and each point I ever make with qualifications like: “I don’t know it all” or “I don’t know what I am talking about” or “I might be wrong about this” or especially “my truth/your truth” or even “It seems to me….”
Fact is that I don’t see myself as stupid at all. I intend my assertions to be reasonable and correct. But I am not infallible, and I know it. I will make effort to qualify the assertions I recognize as more conjecture than settled fact. And occasionally, such as with this post, I will own the fact that I don’t know it all, that in fact there are some bits in all the knowledge I in fact do have which are mistaken, and that part of that problem is that I don’t know which bits.
So, I admit here and now my own need for humility and express it a bit too. I further admit that I too am part of the problem, that I need fixing (probably not by you – and likely not the way you think). Meanwhile, I am working on that.
4. Bonus material.
Here’s the thing:
I value the friendships I have online. Some more than others, but if you engage with me often and especially over time, I come to sense neighborliness with you. Over the years blogging, I have met people in person who live far, far away from me and others I have visited with by phone or even snail mail, email and the like.
I will never forget the missionary I met on the Navajo Rez on the blogs many years ago who lived out near Shiprock, NM. After a couple of years, my mom got sick with cancer, and before she died, I made many frequent trips from Texas to her home in Southwestern Colorado which took me through Farmington and Shiprock. So, I made an appointment and stopped in to meet the man and his family.
Part of the blessing of that meeting was that he was able to show me a shortcut through the desert that cut over half an hour off my trip! That sure was handy information.
But I have made other friends on the blogs who seem to be so very devoted to Jesus and to me, even to my mission – supportive with prayer and even financial care a couple of times (for my street friends, not me). Some of these friendships seemed important to me, even though I never personally met them. I still came to feel a sense of kindred spirit, to even rely on them to “be there” for me and the like.
Yet, I am amazed at how these little friendships suddenly end. It’s always a mystery to me why/how. Always sad. I figure it must be something I said, but I wasn’t confronted, and I have to guess. I don’t get even a chance to make amends. I’m sure I didn’t use “the N-word” or something heinous like that, but somewhere I must have stepped on some raw nerve I didn’t know about.
But that’s just examples of the really special relations coming to sad and sudden ends. The fact is that blogging is ripe for misunderstanding anyway. The less depth of relationship we have, the easier it is to just call it quits and move on over the slightest of slights. Or to blow up and be ugly.
I’m currently observing a “conversation” between two other bloggers on the comment feed which, to my mind, demonstrates painful patience on the part of the one with the arrogance of the other. This despite the fact that I LIKE (I did not click the button, though) the arguments of the arrogant one. But here’s the real kicker, I disagree with him!
Yeah, he’s both a jerk and wrong, BUT he challenges me to think more carefully than I am apt to do otherwise. Meanwhile, the nice guy I agree with appears to be getting beat up in the “conversation” all while showing incredible (and admirable) charity and patience with the arrogant one.
It’s ironic, but I like more of the argument I disagree with, and dread more of the one I side with.
I’m certainly searching for a different route to the same conclusion, because I find the standard one being all over the place with complex reasons, but never delivering the goods or the point that settles the matter (or brings it to a head). I am weary with it.
What can I say?
I have complications with my complications! You might know what I mean, but you might not. You might be having some heavy feelings about our exchange that I just don’t appreciate (or the other way round).
Actually, I have come to discipline my emotions quite a lot over the years with social media. It’s amazing how worked up you can get over what seems to be a slight or some disagreement. You can find yourself arguing in your sleep with a person you never met before, tossing and turning in the bed. It’s just not really worth THAT. You can build up quite a passion about the smallest things.
I’ve been running up against some of these things lately on the blogs. I haven’t for a long time, but then suddenly in recent months… here we go. I wrote up a massive post recently after a “misunderstanding” I got into on another blog. The fellow commentator schooled me at length. However, at the last minute before publishing, I left one more charitable comment which that fellow commentator reacted to saying perhaps he had misunderstood me.
That really deflated a lot of FEELINGS.
I had written a whole post on my blog about that exchange. I had changed the names to protect everyone, and I had tried to be even handed about it. I considered how it MIGHT be nothing more than a simple misunderstanding, but it had inadvertently grown into something of a complex, erudite, intellectual insult. This commentator really took me to task! Tactfully and without indulging in crude name calling or the like, but I mean… Wow!
Fortunately, my charitable comeback elicited a change of tone and somewhat of a retraction from that fellow commentator, and I decided to let it rest. I didn’t publish my post on it either. It was almost miraculous and almost peace – what I got, and I just didn’t want to upset it again.
However, I still wonder why that exchange didn’t go the other way from the beginning. I sensed a powerful kindred spirit there initially. But then this ugly vibe interrupted it, and now I don’t want to stir up the sleeping dogs. So, I am leaving it alone.
But you know what?
I actually have a wife and family in the “real world” – friends too. At least a few. That is the more important part.
But the relationships I have here are important too. Maybe not foundationally important, but I take joy and comfort in a few of them, and I value them.
And so, some of this kind of stuff just needs to be said one way or another at least sometimes.
A blog post is a great way to plant this flag and if need be come back to observe it when trouble arises.
And that brings me to the hidden track, bonus feature of this post. The parts not alluded to above in any of the bold print.
Yeah. Lean in close so I can whisper this part…
Okay. That’s close enough. Don’t make this weird.
I just want to say that if you are accused of a crime (whether you did it or not), DON’T TAKE THE POLYGRAPH TEST!!!
It’s not worth it.
I watch those true crime mysteries with my wife all the time, and man, I gotta say. You have practically nothing to gain from taking that lie detector test, and everything to lose. It’s not admissible in court anyway, and for good reason. It’s not full proof. It merely suggests whether you are honest or not, and I can do that just by looking in your eyes while we talk!
IF, though, you pass, you might get the cops to ease up on you. MIGHT. But if you fail, they almost never do then.
IF you are truly guilty, this will only make it that much harder on you. (Actually, I urge you to lawyer up, but then admit your crime and seek mercy.) IF you are innocent, then not only is the crime investigation unsolved and barking up the wrong tree, but you are a second-tier victim too.
JUST SAY NO TO LIE DETECTORS!
There, that last bit was truly just bonus…