The Power of Words

Posted on November 29, 2011 by

This post, a treatise of my thoughts on blogging, originally ran on Breathing Grace.

We often make the distinction between laughing with someone and laughing at them. How many times have you told your children that you will help them accomplish a task, but you won’t do it for them? These little variations in phrases; a preposition here, a verb there, make a big difference. I believe in the power of words and I believe in reading and listening carefully before I respond. If I have one pet peeve that has grown exponentially since I started blogging, it’s that people comment without having really read, or armed with a preconceived idea, comment on what they think I meant rather than what I actually wrote.

It was never my intention to host an inflammatory blog. I believe in thinking about the world we live in, and thinking critically so that we can prepare and arm our children with the proper worldview,  knowledge and understanding they will need to make good decisions as young adults. The first and most vital part of that  is teaching the word of God and the importance of prayer. Today’s rapid dissemination of information begs that we engage our minds in ways that we probably would rather not. Not to mentally spin ourselves silly of course, but certainly to think. Some of us can engage more than others and you have to prayerfully decide for yourself where that line may be.

I have come to value learning real history rather than the revisionist history that most of us grew up learning. I’m learning not to accept the status quo and to question convention, even in much of the church. This has become very important to me. We need to understand the importance of weighing what we encounter against Scripture- no matter how good it sounds. Even when the truth hurts, we should be willing to make the necessary changes and not make truth relative to our situation. Our pastor preached this past Sunday on the danger of following our conscience if our baseline, or standard for what is right or wrong has been set by the world’s value systems rather than the Bible’s. How’s that for a challenging task?

I recognize that I have a way of stirring up trouble when my fingers meet this keyboard.  While I admit that I sometimes enjoy it, the vast majority of the conversations that turn do so because of comments insisting I said something that I in fact, did not say. So as not to start a new controversy, I won’t give specific examples, but it is amazing to me how many times I have had to respond to a commenter by asking: “Did you read my post?” It should be easier to hold a conversation in this forum because when we’re not sure of what someone meant, we can simply go back and re-read to make sure that we have a clear understanding before commenting. For some reason online, people  refuse to do that. If in real life, a friend told me I needed to love my husband unconditionally, and I responded: “You are saying that he doesn’t have any responsibility to love me, too”,  She’d think I was either hard of hearing, or nuts, and she’d be right.

The motivation, style, and goal of each blogger’s site is as varied as the number of blogs on the Internet. Maintaining this blog is a relatively low maintenance project for me. I believe it’s because the Lord has given me a writer’s mind and heart. It is not uncommon for me to have a thought and immediately reach for one of my notebooks, which are scattered in various corners of my house. I don’t have to stretch and strain for something to write about because for me, writing is a way of life. It is a strain NOT to write! All I have to do for inspiration is crack open one of my notebooks and there I’ll find the seedling of a thought I jotted down on some topic. From there it’s pretty easy for me to write something I can post.

It is important I believe to tackle subjects of social relevance and their connection to us as believers. A head down, eyes closed approach to life doesn’t suit me. Others may use their blogs as a way to keep distant family and friends up to date with what’s happening in their lives. Some love to dispense recipes or homemaking tips. Stumbling upon a homeschooling blog is what introduced me to the blogosphere to begin with. I have found that bloggers who are passionate about what they post about tend to post more regularly. I think it best to consider a blog’s overall theme when commenting as well, which is why I tend not to leave comments offering a different perspective on blogs that I don’t read regularly.

I have left a comment on posts complimenting the writer for writing a thought-provoking piece, and then expressly noting that I hope to come back and comment later when I can take the time to thoroughly read what was written. I do that because I believe it is insulting to comment on an author’s words when I haven’t taken the time to weigh them. Words have power. If I am going to disagree with you, I need to be sure that my thoughts are based on what you actually said, and not what I want to believe you meant based on my preconceived notions.

If you want to know what I think on a subject, and it’s not clear in the post, please ask. When someone leaves a comment accusing me of saying working women are in sin, or that husbands have no responsibility to love their wives, or other such nonsense, what it tells me is that they either didn’t read what my post said, or didn’t care. That they only want to be heard without extending the same courtesy.

When I approach any blog post or opinion piece, the first thing I do is try to keep my thoughts general. For example, if a writer expresses her belief that a mother should never spend more than 30 minutes a day on the Internet, I have a decision to make. I can immediately leave a comment detailing how and why my time online ranges anywhere from 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, complete with nap time schedules included and an additional admonishment to stop being judgmental because after all, she’s online, too.

Or I can admit that in general, she has a point. There are often more productive ways to spend my free time. I can acknowledge that even though it is nap time, often I miss out on opportunities to do things that are more important when I spend that hour online. In other words, I can view it as an opportunity to examine myself, because just maybe she has a point.

While there are certainly exceptions to almost every rule, generalizations and stereotypes aren’t created in a vacuum. Without generalizations, we cannot communicate. The words we use, as well as those we don’t, matter. As increasing numbers of people read less and internalize more, communication will become more difficult at a time when clear communication and asking the right questions has never been more important.

Because I am incapable of PC, I admonish you to read at your own risk. But please, read carefully.

Posted in: Relationships