My heart, heavy; my emotions, swirling; but my mind, clear; I’ll listen to all three and hopefully communicate my thoughts well. My last post, the one about Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, received responses that surprised and discouraged me. An article intended to highlight issues that could harm women and support an organization that serves women, was perceived by some to be chauvinistic and mean-spirited. The article led to a few conversations, some private and some public, and they affected me significantly.
I was ready to quit, to stop writing and speaking about anything other than feel good topics. I contemplated taking my ideas and keeping them between me and my family. I was sick of being considered hateful, judgmental, and cruel. I’m none of those things, yet some hold that perception. Why? Primarily because I believe killing people is wrong, homosexual behavior is wrong, divorce is wrong, and I submit myself to God’s authority. While these positions are unpopular and fuel those perceptions, the medium of writing vs. the medium of conversation contributes as well.
I recently spoke to a group about why I believe divorce is wrong and a woman came up to me afterwards. She told me how her husband had treated her and her boys very badly and eventually started a romantic relationship with someone else. Finally, he divorced her. I was ready for her to contend with my ideas, and accuse me of insensitivity and ignorance. However, this woman told me I had a tender heart, and how she completely agreed with what I taught. She believed I wasn’t mean or chauvinistic in my approach or tone. My point was still unpopular and I didn’t shy away from it, yet she wasn’t offended, why? I think the difference was proximity.
You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever read too much into a text or email. A phrase is misconstrued, sarcasm is missed, or intent is assumed, and the dialogue goes downhill, fast. A blog shares those pitfalls, and reading one can feel like you’re being talked at, or down to. But when I speak with people, especially one on one, I’m able to listen, to try to understand, and offer truth in a conversational, sensitive manner. There’s something powerful about body language, tone of voice, and looking in someone’s eyes, and none of those occur when you read a blog. While the issues are sensitive, it’s the method of communication that was exacerbating them. When I better appreciated the obstacles inherent in this medium I decided I would not be silent. However, I also decided I would be even more careful with my words.
For example, if I speak on issues that deal specifically with women, I’ll try to quote as many women as I can. A friend pointed out that men lack empathy when they speak about abortion or birth control. She’s exactly right. I can’t possibly empathize with a woman in those areas, but my lack of empathy doesn’t also mean I lack sympathy. When I write about these issues I picture my wife and wonder how they affect her. Anytime I talk about marriage or pregnancy I think about how my words will sound in the hearts of my four sisters, one is married, three are single. It’s clear I need to do a better job, and I will.
When I began writing this post I intended to discuss a troubling article and the comments that followed – I still plan to address it in the days to come – but, these thoughts you’ve just read have been in my heart for a while now and refused to be ignored.
I have to honor my convictions. I must seek and submit to Truth. I choose to follow the leading of God in my life. I will continue to write and speak the truth without fear of criticism, but I won’t let that courage turn to callous. I won’t compromise, but I will comfort and come alongside to the best of my ability, and as far as this medium will allow.
I hope to make you think, but I want to leave you with hope.
I want to speak the truth, but speak it in love.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:14-16
I hope you’ll continue to read.