Meanness

December 2, 2005 | 99 comments
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Though this horse is not dead yet, it still needs a good flogging. Not long after I first started blogging, I wrote a post, “Difference, Disagreement, and Contention” in which I lamented the tone of bitterness and anger that seemed to characterize the bloggernacle at that time. Here I am again, doing much the same thing. But I think we need to talk about that subject again, and I think it follows well on Kaimi’s post on forgiveness.

Reading a few blogs here and there and doing my best just to keep up with the posts and responses at Times and Seasons, it seems to me that the Banner of Heaven incident has fed our already ample appetite for meanness, an appetite that is increased rather than satiated by being fed. When human beings in their natural state are mean, they cannot get enough of it. We need to outdo what we did before or what another has done to us. The internet in general is a place where people feel free to treat each other with contempt and to pile contempt on contempt, and–obviously–the bloggernacle isn’t immune to that. Indeed, it isn’t even that different in the bloggernacle than everywhere else. Meanness in all of its senses–common, unpleasant, inferior, lacking moral dignity, ignoble, vicious, cruel, hard to control, shameful–is often the norm in the responses to posts at Times and Seasons and all of the other Mormon blogs, especially in response to a few particular persons and to some ideas. Unfortunately, meanness begets more meanness.

Consider an example, the pictures posted recently at Nine Moons (and now taken down) comparing David King Landrith (DKL) to Hitler under the title “Monsters.” I think the original post was not the result of meanness on gst’s part; I take his word when he says that it wasn’t. It was a matter of bad judgment or bad taste when trying to be funny, but no more. But many of the responses have not only been in bad taste, they have been mean, and many of them amount to “Who is DKL to complain? He got what he gave.”

I have to agree that I have often found David’s blogging style irritating. When Times and Seasons decided to ban him from our site, though I did not want to, I agreed to go along. I feel strongly about banning only as a last resort, but it seemed we had reached that point. I know David somewhat from BYU. He took a Hegel class from me and, though it was apparent that he was no fan of Hegel, he wrote an excellent paper for the class. He was happy to challenge me, but he did so with good arguments, so it was fun to have him in class (when he showed up). I’ve heard from those who know him personally that he is a pleasant, self-effacing person, and I believe them. DKL is pleasant, a faithful Mormon, and very smart. I’ll grant all of that quite happily. I’ll also grant that his blogging persona has been something else. But whether we like DKL or not is irrelevant. He is not the question.

The question is “How should I behave toward others?” and Christ has answered that:

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

I have no right to “give DKL–or any other person–what he gave” or to take pleasure in others doing so. I have no right to demean another. I have no right to make jokes at someone’s expense or to vent my spleen when someone disagrees with me or to use disparaging language to refer to others. I have no right to be mean. Indeed, I have an obligation not to be so.

This obligation not to be mean is not something peripheral to being a Christian. With the commandment to love God, it is at its very center: I am obliged by covenant to act in a Christ-like way, to imitate him who suffered without deserving it and was unjustly executed for us. I cannot do that if I am mean to others. I have no right to be mean to the person for whom Christ died. But if I cannot be mean and keep my covenant, than many of us in the bloggernacle break it fairly regularly.

The anonymity of the bloggernacle makes it easy to be mean. Our passions for our politics and for our understanding of doctrine makes it easy to do so. Anger at injustice makes it easy to do so. There are many things that make it easier to be mean and to feel justified in that meanness, but we have covenanted not to take that easy way. Those of us who remain upset by Banner of Heaven and angry with its participants, or angry only with David King Landrith, those of us who dislike Adam Greenwood’s take on things, those of us who are angered by Kristine Haglund Harris’s liberalism, or Kaimi’s flippancies, or Nate Oman’s inability to write about anything but the law, or Matt Evans’s obsession with abortion, or Jim Faulconer’s constant, motherly harangue to be nice–we need to stop and take account. We need to repent in the most important sense of that word, “to change our way of being.”

Though my Times and Seasons colleagues have advised me to turn off the comments on this thread, I’m not going to do so unless I have to. But if this becomes an instance of the very thing I am asking us to stop doing, I will turn off comments immediately and I will delete those I consider to be offensive. This thread is about neither accusation nor justification. It is certainly not about any particular person or persons. It is about repentance and forgiveness. It is about being nice.

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99 Responses to Meanness

  1. Jim F. on December 2, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    I should have been more clear about something: by focusing on those who respond to posts, I seem to have left bloggers themselves off the hook. I don’t think those who blog have any less responsibility not to provoke than those who respond have not to be provoked. They probably have more.

  2. Geoff J on December 2, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Good thoughts Jim. My experience has been that those with whom I have had some of the most heated debates in the ‘nacle have not become my enemies over time, but rather valued cyber friends. Perhaps this is due to my policy of apologizing early and often when I am mean and realize it (and I surely am oblivious too often). Perhaps it is because they were magnanimous enough to forgive me if I offended them in our debates. Whatever the case, I have been greatly enriched by associating with both those that agree with my views and with those that vehemently disagree.

  3. CS Eric on December 2, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    I was one of those who was “duped” in Bannergate, and even was quoted in the Tribune article about my complaint about being duped.

    Tell you what though, I felt stupid, and from the comments of those involved in it, they felt stupid, too, because they didn’t realize what they were really doing. The way I see it, I felt stupid, they felt stupid. We’re even.

    They were stupid, not evil.

  4. The Sharkman on December 2, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks for the great post, Jim. I coudn’t agree more with your message. So many of us allow our egos to impell us to some pretty immature/sinful behavior (obviously this tendency is especially fed by the anonymity of the Bloggernacle). I always feel so immature and regretful after practicing such behavior. As hokey as it sounds, everyone truly could benefit from swallowing some ego and just being nicer. Again, good post.

  5. Jesse on December 2, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    In reading your post, Jim, it occurs to me that we might do well to think of being mean in the older sense of the word: lowering ourselves to that which is common, without merit, lacking in ennobling characteristics. As you say, being mean is about us and about what level we wish to stoop to, not about the person(s) we address ourselves to.

    Some good thoughts to keep in mind in a medium where pulling the trigger is all too easy and where we don’t have the physical proximity, the tone of voice, the motions of the hand or expression of the face to moderate our reactions, or to more fully inform us of the views of our co-bloggers.

  6. Melissa Madsen Fox on December 2, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I think the point about the anonymity of blogs is an important one. If we 1) were all required to use our actual names and/or 2) all knew each other personally, we would probably treat each other better. It’s easy to stop thinking of the people behind the comments and blogs as “real”. And it’s malign someone you have absolutely no connection to. It’s much more difficult to be civil to words on a computer screen than to real people.

    Not that blogs don’t have their good points, but I think the anonymous nature of it is a real drawback.

  7. Elisabeth on December 2, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks, Jim, for this post. I asked DKL what he thought of your post, and he said that he agreed with you, but with two caveats:

    (1) That you sell Nate’s writing abilities on non-legal matters way too short, since Nate’s post on womens’ underwear far surpasses anything he has ever written about the law, and

    (2) that the Hegelian debates you remember were the result of the expertise of his (DKL’s) teacher rather than any youthful intelligence on his (DKL’s) part.

    Again, thank you for this post. I didn’t know you were the professorial inspiration for many of the participants (and founders) of the bloggernacle. I appreciate the steadying force of your posts and comments – thank you for your contribution here.

  8. Costanza on December 2, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t know exactly why, but your post was like a breath of fresh air for me. Thanks Jim.

  9. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    The difficulty is expressing degrees of passion and degrees of inappropriateness without being mean. For example, if on a recent thread I had said that people who try in vitro fertilization are no better than cattle, I would have been excoriated, and properly so.

    I am fully aware that courtesy and soft-spokedness are Christian attributes. But Christ did not always gentle his tongue. He said mean things. He was contemptuous sometimes. Perhaps the true Christian will sometimes follow that example too.

    What this suggests to me is that when I’ve been the target of meanness on the web, I should get over it quick. Yes, folks were being unkind and uncharitable, but in their own minds they were standing up boldly for truth and right, which is not so unforgivable.

  10. Eric Russell on December 2, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    Jim, this is wonderful. We do need to hear it again after a year. In fact, we would do well to hear it every month.

    Adam, Christ was stern and sharp. But was he contemptuous? What would be an example?

  11. Brian G on December 2, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    I think Christ’s moments of unbridling his tongue were actually quite limited. I think his contempt was rare, particularly, in light of the fact he was the Son of the God and could hold all of us quite rightly in contempt.

    In my opinion, Christ met much of the awful things said and done to him with silence, rather than contempt, or even righteous anger. I think this is a path that more of us in the bloggernacle could take as well.

  12. Paul Mortensen on December 2, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    I’d like to second MMF’s point about anonimity. Anonimity reduces the the social penalties for being a jerk or perpetuating fraud and as a consequence we get more of both (jerks and frauds)– especially among posters.

  13. Russell Arben Fox on December 2, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Jim, this post is exactly what I’d hoped it would be. Good work.

    My wife, Melissa, is of course absolutely correct about the anonymity factor. I recognize the occasional reasonableness of blogging (or doing any kind of communicating) anonymously, but in my view, most of the time it adds nothing to one’s ability to connect with others, and sometimes takes quite a bit away.

    “He said mean things. He was contemptuous sometimes.”

    Perhaps we understand the words you use–“mean,” “contemptuous”–differently, Adam, but I don’t think this is true at all. I don’t think Jesus ever spoke meanly. He charged people with their sins, often harshly, but he was never low, cruel, cheap, dismissive, snarky, ugly, condescending, obsessive, or any of those other things in the way He spoke. He didn’t pick away at things; He made His case, and moved on.

  14. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Some of the things said to the Pharisees sound contemptuous to me.

  15. Beijing on December 2, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    A requirement to use real names does little to decrease meanness, I think. The percentage of full-name-using bloggers/commenters saying mean things seems about the same to me as the percentage of fully or partially anonymous bloggers/commenters saying mean things. The near-constant, real-life meanness of some kids in school to each other, of some family members to each other, of some coworkers to each other, all happens despite full names being known. Anyone who believes that they are responsible for all their actions, who believes that God’s eyes are never closed, will not find their behavior affected whether others know of those actions and attribute them to the actor by name or not.

    I think online meanness is more attributable to the ease of posting and commenting instantly. The root problem, as Jim points out, is that we too often feel that defense of a viewpoint or anger at injustice justifies meanness. We feel that especially strongly “in the moment,” whereas if we had to write our posts and comments out as longhand letters, I think many of us would find time to reflect on our tone, to remember that meanness is never justified, the moment would pass, and many of those letters would never be mailed, or would be edited very thoroughly before mailing. Yet, with the click of a button…

  16. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    I see the distinction you are making, Russell Fox. It’s a fine distinction, but very real. The problem is that its often hard to see from the outside, especially on the internet where we don’t have context and mannerisms. What’s the difference between calling someone a dog (or a house dog) cruelly or merely sharply or sternly? Our other experience with Christ makes us think its the latter. We don’t always have that other experience on the internet.

  17. Brian G on December 2, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    It seems to me when we don’t have that other experience is when we should give someone the benefit of the doubt.

  18. The Sharkman on December 2, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    Adam’s comment #7: “I am fully aware that courtesy and soft-spokedness are Christian attributes. But Christ did not always gentle his tongue. He said mean things. He was contemptuous sometimes. Perhaps the true Christian will sometimes follow that example too.”

    While I disagree with you, Adam, I do so with feelings of kindness and love toward you, and compliments of your rich, full hair. I think Christ was justified in being mean or contemptuous (and while I think the assignation of those two words to Christ’s behavior/statements is debatable, for the sake of my larger point, i’ll grant it) for at least a few reasons that we mortals aren’t:

    1. Perfect love: Christ felt the purest charity for those He spoke/behaved to in a contemptuous/mean way. The rest of us don’t have perfect love for those we are mean to. In fact, by definition, we usually have very negative, presumably sinful feelings for those we are mean to.

    2. Omnicience: Was Christ omnicient during his mortal ministry? I’m really asking, cause I don’t know. But whether He technically was or not, He certainly had pretty near a perfect knowledge of the objective truth of matters on which he spoke, and a full understanding of peoples needs (e.g., when they needed a good chiding).

    3. Authority: He had stewardship over all people and situations

    My over-arching reason for thinking He is justified where we aren’t is that He is now and was then God.

    I think I understand what you are saying, but to me there is a huge difference between being bold and standing for righteousness and being mean.

  19. The Sharkman on December 2, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Man, you take a few minutes to type your comment, and by the time you post it, it’s old news. I was supposed to be comment #8! I’m original and cool!

  20. NFlanders on December 2, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    It is very surprising that everyone who uses their real name agrees that anonymity is bad. That’s okay, I will accept your criticism with Christ-like patience. (Insert wink here.)

    I’d have to disagree that using your full name encourages civility. First, we have to acknowledge that different people find different things to be rude. Also, tone is notoriously difficult to gauge in an Internet setting. I am willing to wager that a large chunk of “meanness” episodes can be attributed at least in part to misunderstandings. That being understood, in my opinion, aside from the occasional troll, some of the rudest people in the bloggernacle are people using complete names, even middle ones.

    The problem is that many bloggers here have long-standing and often outside relationships with other bloggers or commentators. Therefore, when a friend acts condescending or rude to a newbie, we tend to automatically defend the person we know as a complete human being. “Oh, he’s just being his irascible self!” I submit that insiders being blind to the rudeness of their friends is just as big a problem as rudeness coming from people outside the community.

  21. Mark B. on December 2, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Since at least one person here believes that my latest comment on another thread was exactly what Jim F. is talking about here, I post here with some trepidation.

    I suspect that much of what is written on blogs is relatively close to what we would say to each other if face to face. What we don’t have here is facial expression, tone of voice, the immediate clarification or apology when we overstep bounds. Instead, there’s just the awful certainty of the written word, immutable (despite later attempts to clarify), shortened, often to a fault, because of the time and difficulty of editing.

    For these reasons, we should be quick to forgive imagined slights, and even quicker to interpret others’ comments in a light that doesn’t require us to think them evil.

  22. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Mr. Sharkman,

    1). I’ll grant you your perfect love. But do we never feel love? More importantly, do we know what its like to feel perfect love? Does one always have feelings of warm sympathy or does one sometimes still feel angry? I think the latter, but I’m in the minority.

    2) I don’t think Christ was omniscient during his mortal ministry. I’m not even sure that he always acted appropriately, from the standpoint of omniscience. I know he did not sin, but I do not know that he did not make mistakes. If I’m wrong, God forgive me the blasphemy.

    3) We don’t have all authority, but we do have authority in some situations.

  23. NFlanders on December 2, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    I would like to stress (reading my comment, it comes off much harsher than I intended) that 99% of us don’t intend to be rude. I am certain that I have been unwittingly rude on several occasions in the bloggernacle. It is a mixture of comfortableness and perhaps laziness that allows us to go too far in this respect.

    On the other hand, I do find it bizarre that the 1% who do intend to be rude often get a free pass.

  24. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    So far we have onymous blogges saying onymity is best, and anonymous bloggers saying anonymity is best. Will someone vote against interest and settle the question for us?
    [grin]

  25. Jim F. on December 2, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    Whether Jesus was ever mean, I can’t say, though I don’t see any record of it. Contemptuous? I think Adam has a point: he does seem occasionally contemptuous of the Pharisees. But I think is it one thing to hold myself to his standard in terms of kindness and another to assume that I can use his anger or contempt to justify mine. Mine doesn’t come from a person of the same character as he.

    Though not exactly the same, this does seem relevant: “I the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).

  26. Chad Too on December 2, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    How about we quasi-onymous? ;-)

    Maybe I’m an exception but I would say the same things whether I posted with my last name or not (Incidentally, even if I did post under my “real name” could that be verified?). My choice to keep the mystery alive is merely an over-concern about internet privacy.

  27. Jim F. on December 2, 2005 at 5:58 pm

    Adam, I’ll vote that anonymous blogging is best if you’ll add your vote to mine. Then we’ll have two against self-interest.

  28. Mark IV on December 2, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    I’m with Flanders – I seriously doubt very many people around here set out to be intentionally rude. Sometime long threads become tedious because everybody is simply restating a position with the preface of “but what I meant was…”

    Jim, for me, this is exactly what makes the bloggernacle worthwhile. Every single one of us is out in left field in some way. We bore others, we make poorly thought out assertions, we use words or terms that don’t say precisely what we mean, and we often unintentionally give offense. It is good for me to bear in mind that patience and longsuffering (emphasis on the long) need to be practiced here, too. The process of trying to understand and respond appropriately is good exercise.

    Also, I agree completely with your comment # 1. The permabloggers set the tone, and that makes this post and the previous one by Kaimi especially refreshing.

  29. Rusty on December 2, 2005 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t think anonymity has anything to do with niceness. In fact, that seems like a lame excuse. A name is a name, but familiarity is what counts. Ned, Roasted Tomatoes, and others have been coming to my blog for a while and are much more likely to be nice (in my experience) than someone there for the first time.

    On the other hand, I do find it bizarre that the 1% who do intend to be rude often get a free pass.

    Um… yeah, exactly.

  30. Seth Rogers on December 2, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    Christ is scathing of the Pharisees and roundly condemns their mindset and actions but it’s not so much contempt as it is righteous fury (see also his cleansing of the temple).

    Talmage actually points us to the only incident I know of with Christ actually showing contempt: King Herod.

    Talmage notes that Herod holds the dubious distinction of being the only person Christ is ever recorded using a personal epithet upon: “tell that fox …”

    Talmage continues:

    “As far as we know, Herod is further distinguished as the only being who saw Christ face to face and spoke to Him, yet never heard His voice. For penitent sinners, weeping women, prattling children, for the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rabbis, for the perjured high priest and his obsequious and insolent underling, and for Pilate the pagan, Christ had words – of comfort or instruction, of warning or rebuke, of protest or denunciation – yet for Herod the fox He had but disdainful and kingly silence” (Jesus the Christ pg. 590).

  31. Seth Rogers on December 2, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Incidentally, FMH is currently doing a discussion on use of anonnymity and pseudonyms while blogging.

  32. bkb on December 2, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    What a coincidence that I recently wrote the following poem.

    If everyone everywhere could be above the fray.
    For just one solitary day.
    And not say anything if
    They didn’t have anything nice
    To say.

    Excellent post, Jim F.

  33. b bell on December 2, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    usually people are not trying to be rude. usually its hard to tell what nuances people are putting in their comments.

  34. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    All right, Jim F.

    I do solemnly swear that anonymous bloggers are best.

  35. Jim F. on December 2, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    And I solemnly swear that Adam is right.

  36. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    But semi-onymity is right out. Hey, Jim F., will y’all finally let me change to ‘Zorg, BlogDean’ like I keep wanting to?

  37. Jim F. on December 2, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    If Wilfried will go for it, so will I.

  38. Ted Bloomquist on December 2, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Jim F. makes a good point. We should err on the side of patience and kindness. Too often, we get angry and try to one up each other or hammer each other. (I include myself in there.) It can be tough when bloggers or posters say something dumb but we should be respectful even when we don’t agree. Thanks Jim F. for reminding us of that!

  39. Erika Haglund on December 2, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Oh, drat. I was planning a campaign to reintroduce the word “nincompoop” into the common lexicon–not for its own sake, but because the word for “the act of being a nincompoop” is, really actually, “nincompoopery”–but I can’t go around accusing people of nincompoopery without being mean.

    :)

    (oh, and yes, I am related to every other Haglund in the universe, but more specifically, I’m Kristine’s little sister.)

  40. Tim J. on December 2, 2005 at 8:26 pm

    One reason, I believe, people are mean or ‘snarky’ is because we too often dignify it with a response instead of ignoring the comment.

    I noticed that my early comments in the ‘Nacle were often ignored (though no fault of anyone). Later I began to use more sarcasm and became very rude in some comments. But you know what? – I always got a response and people noticed what I said. I did get out of hand a few times and I have resisted the snarky temptation since.

    I think we need to ignore the trolls, delete their comments if necessary and move on instead of giving them what they want.

  41. Keith on December 2, 2005 at 9:15 pm

    D&C 42–the law of the Church–says “Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm.” Seems to me like a good measure. Though I don’t know all that is entailed in not speaking evil, at a minimum it could mean not speaking evily or in a way to cause evil (contention, hate, intolerence, contempt, condescension, etc.) or that is itself evil. The “do no harm” is also a toughy. Think how this works so often in close personal relationships. I say something to get back, to let it be known that I feel hurt, furstrated, angry, or ignored and I do it in a way to harm, sting, belittle, cause guilt, etc. In our public discourse it’s so easy go along with the Jerry Springer world and a world of hostile, show-you-up media pundits that value the comment that cuts and hurts and demeans. We fall into this too readily. Then to add to this, email and blogging, in many ways, make it easy to forget the face on the other end of our comments.

    President Hinckley’s spoken here and there about the need for civility, which I think is one of the opposite virtures to meanness. Kindness is another. And respect. I’m convinced there’s a place for argument and discussion — but not in a spirit of speaking evil of or of doing harm to our neighbor.

  42. LisaB on December 2, 2005 at 11:05 pm

    FMH is also now discussing how to handle trolls–somewhat related.

    I’ve been warned before that sometimes what I think is witty or funny is really just unkind. Thank you for the reminder, Jim.

  43. El Jefe on December 3, 2005 at 1:40 am

    I want you to know that El Jefe is my real name.

    “Some are born to greatness…”

  44. Charles Sakai on December 3, 2005 at 4:29 am

    …and Charles Sakai is my real name, although on other blog sites I use the pseudonym of “Bloodthirsty Warmonger.”

    My own two cents’ worth: Much of what is perceived as meanness comes from talking or writing without fully considering the consequences. Sometimes it’s wise to engage the brain before firing off a comment or rash remark.

  45. Jim F. on December 3, 2005 at 8:53 am

    Tim J (#40): I think yours is a very important point. The best way to deal with snarky, mean, or off-topic comments is merely to ignore them rather than to join them or to up the ante in response to them.

    Charles Sakai (#44): You are right: at least sometimes the problem isn’t so much that we intend to be mean as it is that we don’t think about how those reading what we write will understand it. I’ve sometimes found myself doing that in my comments on student papers, writing a comment that I don’t intend to be hurtful, but which turns out to be hurtful because I didn’t think about how the student would “hear” what I wrote.

  46. Kristy on December 3, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Speaking of FMH, they had a memorable thread a few months ago about being nice.

    For some reason the internet seems to attracts people who enjoy a good debate. Especially here at T & S, where many bloggers (and many commenters) have a background in philosophy, debate, or the law, I think sometimes people just miss a good intelectual brawl. And they can be a bit… zealous. Add to that the misunderstandings from the lack of non-verbal clues, and you have a recipe for the constant temptation to sharpeness in our exchanges.

    By the way, since I only comment occasionally and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to mention this, I too, took Hegel from Jim F. It was arround 1992, and I was completely, utterly lost. Jim called on me once to explain what one sentence meant, and for the only time in my schooling I couldn’t even say one word. I just sat there like a fish with my mouth open. It was the only class I took from him, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know Jim’s non-Hegel side here. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  47. Jason Lawton on December 3, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Jim, great post.

    Anonymity certainly contributes to meanness – which is not to say everyone who is anonymous is mean. Or that everyone who is not anonymous is kind. My point is that accountability almost always improves or raises performance or standards. Anonymity reduces accountability. However, I don’t have a problem with people using fake names. Even those of us who post as ourselves still maintain our anonymity for the most part. Let’s be honest, aside from my mother and a few friends, most people will not put my face with this post. Thus, even with my name attached to it, I still have a high degree of anonymity. That is simply one of the downsides to the internet. It is so large and so many people are on it, that it can take on a mob mentality (which again goes to anonymity because of the size of the group and the emotions that flow).

    Even most well know people on the bloggernacle, are known mostly by their name. Only a few people really know who they are and what they’re all about. When we talk with neighbors or friends, they know us and we have personal and repeated contact. Thus, there is an incentive to behave. But the internet erodes those natural inhibitions — because we enjoy much greater anonymity even when we use our real identity simply because of the size of the internet. I don’t mean this point as a reason to not have blogs. I simply mean that if we understand it, we can guard against it. Of any group in the world, we should strive to be kind, patient and generous. Understanding that the internet by its very nature gives some level of anonymity and thus erodes accountability, we should all guard against the temptations that come from being anonymous. I thank Jim for his eloquent reminder!

  48. Beijing on December 3, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    I agree with the points you make in #47, Jason, but I would also point out that when we post, comment, and email in the Bloggernacle, that is also repeated contact which creates an incentive to behave amongst that group. People are constantly building up or squandering their reputations here, as anywhere.

    And there is probably only slightly (if any) more temptation to be one person online and another offline, as there is to be one person at work and another at home, or one person at church and another when the ward members aren’t watching. Some people are more adept than others at being the same person wherever they are; integrating all parts of their life; having “integrity.”

    Our IP addresses also play a part in making us accountable online. I don’t understand exactly how it works, or what the limitations are, but from what I understand, the IP address means the administrator still knows who you are and what you post, even if you change your screen name or if it is not your real name.

  49. fMhLisa on December 4, 2005 at 7:14 am

    nice, nice, nice

    I always like this message!
    Bravo!
    And a few more exclamation points just in case!
    !
    !
    !!!

  50. Jim F. on December 4, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    I’m not completely comfortable with saying what follows because I don’t want to be the one who gets the thread off-topic, but I’m going to do it anyway.

    Within the last couple of days three different people have written me privately about this thread. Their e-mails have included two complaints. First, I quoted them or someone they knew when I wrote this: “Who is DKL to complain? He got what he gave.” If I was quoting any particular person, it wasn’t on purpose. I may have unconsciously used wording that I had seen on the web some place, but I didn’t do that intentionally. I thought that I was creating a hypothetical statement that would characterize the kind of thing I had seen. My apologies to any and all whom I may have been inadvertently quoting. I didn’t intend to attack you personally.

    Second, two of the e-mails took me to task for taking DKL’s side or valorizing his blogging practices. I also certainly didn’t mean to do that. I said “his blogging persona has been something else,” and I assumed that, when that statement was combined with the fact that I agreed to to ban DKL from T&S, people would know thatI intended the remark to be understood as disapproval. In case that wasn’t clear, be assured that I meant it that way.

    But I want to repeat what I said in the original post: this is not about David King Landrith. He’s an example, and I think a good one. Whether or not he has earned the enmity of many in the bloggernacel, he is obviously someone for whom people feel enmity. So he makes a good example to use in a post about meanness. As a disliked blogger DKL is exactly the kind of person we should have in mind when we ask ourselves to whom we should be more kind. It is easy to argue that we should stop being mean to Wilfried Decoo. He’s never made anyone mad (at least not since he angered his parents by joining the Church). But the real test of our civility is how we deal with those less easy to be nice to. I’m not flying the flag for David. I’m just trying to get us to consider being more civil to one another–which includes being more civil to David since, whatever our opinion of his blogging, he is our brother.

  51. P. G. Karamesines on December 4, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    Uh, I like DKL.

  52. J.F. Speight on December 4, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    Whatever the cost of anonymity in increased meanness must be offset against the worthy contributions of anonymous commenters. Many fine anonymous commenters would not comment at all if they had to do so in their true names, for privacy reasons.

    Also, our Church has a considerable tradition of assumed names.

  53. Jim F. on December 4, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Patty (51), I hope it was clear that I like what I know of David, though I don’t know him well. But a lot of people in the bloggernacle don’t. That–and recent events–were the reason I thought I could use him to make my point.

  54. Tatiana on December 4, 2005 at 9:44 pm

    I really appreciate this post, and I think it’s wonderful that T+S has the high standards it does. That doesn’t happen without periodic reminders. I was originally attracted to T+S because of the respect that is evident here. The constant disrespectfulness toward the viewpoints of others that is so apparent on many other forums had saddened me, turned me away, and lost my interest. Then again, on some other fora I’ve seen, no disagreement is tolerated, so that while everyone acts nicely, it’s at the expense of any real discussion of tough issues.

    Here there is plenty of disagreement, and lots of different viewpoints expressed, but for the most part the tone of debate is civil and respectful. That’s why I enjoy reading T+S, and what keeps me coming back. I applaud Jim F. for his role in helping to frame the posting guidelines, and in periodically reminding commenters and posters to adhere to them. I’m so glad there is a place like this on the web! It fills a great void. It would be a terrible shame if that quality were ever lost because of gradually eroding standards, or forgetfulness. So kudos to Jim F. for his reminders!

  55. NateT on December 4, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    One thing I noticed after going through a better part of a PhD program in history is how we are often taught to be hypercritical of arguments and the works of others and not to focus on what positive things come out of badly written or poorly argued points that still are valid. Indeed we are often taught to focus in on the problems rather than the substance or the big picture of what one is saying intellectually, and there is almost always things that are lacking in anyone’s thoughts, epically if they are fired off in a relatively quick manner such as posting on the Internet.

    In a classroom one has some context, some unwritten set of norms, that help make sense of criticism and what is criticism and what is meanness. As many have commented, we lack that sort of context in may ways on a blog.

    I speak as an observer of this blog more than a participant. I posted rather actively for a month or two a year and some change ago, but this very subject, along with being drowned out more often than not in the sea of comments persuaded me posting was of little use for me at least. Anyways I have seen some things that make me want to post again and so here I am.

  56. Arnold Layne on December 4, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    I agree with #51, I like DKL too.

    And I agree with JF at #50 — I’m proud to call DKL my brother.

  57. P. G. Karamesines on December 5, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    Jim #53, it’s clear ’nuff you like DKL okay. I was responding to this: “I’m just trying to get us to consider being more civil to one another–which includes being more civil to David since, whatever our opinion of his blogging, he is our brother.”

    I think meanness is interesting, though. When a person is mean we may often view the edges of her thinking–those precipices at the fartherest reaches of her philosophical (or spiritual or what have you) landscape she doesn’t know how to get beyond. So she falls to defending those boundaries, sometimes ferociously. At any rate, when I catch myself being mean, I’m usually startled to find myself staring at the edges of my own thinking and saying, “Wow, look at that drop-off.” The temptation to throw up a fence around the edges of one’s known universe, even when we sense we’re operating at a loss when doing so, is a usual response and IMO worthy of respect. I’m not suggesting we respect meanness, just the feelings of being at a loss or feelings of fear that sometimes arise as a result of provocative encounters and manifest in self-defensiveness and meanness. IMO, that’s space bordering on the sacred. And when someone goes too far then says, “I’m leaving the bloggernacle, it’s too much,” we ought to give such people critical sacred space for their introspection, understanding, perhaps, that their view of the world may have been brought up short and is now struggling to change, as per “We need to repent in the most important sense of that word, ‘to change our way of being.'” At the edges of these precipices agency may be sparked in ways that simply don’t happen when we’re choosing between, say, a Honda or a Toyota.

    As an aside, I like this: “I have no right to demean another” in a post about not being mean. Seems to me you’re attempting to “de-mean” the whole bloggernacle!

  58. Kingsley on December 5, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    Re “Christ-like meanness,” here’s a little somethin’ somethin’ from Charles Williams:

    “But, you know, holy anger is a very dangerous thing indeed for anyone who isn’t a saint to play with. Supernatural indignation may be possible, but it springs from a supernatural root. Our business is surely to look for that root rather than to cultivate the anger?”

  59. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    The strait and narrow path asks us to do a great many ‘very dangerous things.’ Having and rearing children, for instance. Anger might be among them, in some circumstances.

  60. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2005 at 5:28 pm

    By the way, I support Jim F.’s point that we owe courtesy and charity to readers, commenters, and bloggers. I’m just off on my usual threadjack that Christ does not equal Gandhi.

  61. Kingsley on December 5, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    Christ says contention is Satanic, no ifs ands or buts about it, and I know that I feel Satanic whenever I engage in it, regardless of the justness of my cause (e.g. debating baptist ministers in the mission field). When I used to post here a lot I would get quite snarky a lot, and I always felt sort of sick and unsettled when I did, but the overriding emotion was to give better than I got. It’s really difficult for me to imagine a situation comparable to Christ and the Pharisees or Joseph Smith rebuking the foulmouthed guards, where I was the head of a dispensation confronting my enemies. I think Williams would treat the dangers of childrearing differently from those of using the anger of Holy Men to justify our own.

  62. Kingsley on December 5, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    And by the by I agree that Christ does not equal Ghandi and that “Christ was a pacifist”-type arguments are weak to say the least.

  63. Kingsley on December 5, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    I think Williams would say, on the one hand, with childrearing, you have a commandment to do so, while on the other hand, with anger, you have definite commandments against it or at least the behaviors that result so often from it, e.g. name-calling, hatred, etc. So that you enter the first with a definite nod from God and have all these suggestions on how to avoid (or at least navigate successfully) the dangers contained therein, while with the second there is no such injunction and only a handful of anecdotes of Christ and other major prophetic figures apparently engaging in it as your guide. If you try to make literal analogies between their lives and your own you end up with absurdities (Christ versus the Pharisees, me versus Kristine) and if you make room for the differences between your status and theirs you’re exploding the analogy from the start. But I’m not that well-versed in Williams, perhaps he would say something else entirely.

  64. Guy Murray on December 6, 2005 at 12:23 am

    Jim, Thanks so much for your always timeless reminder of your original post on this topic and the follow up comments. I have always admired your post and thoughts about more Christlike blogging, as it were. Thanks again for this reminder. I hope you will continue to remind us of these issues on a regular basis.

    Adam Greenwood . . .I’m not certain I’m qualified to pass judgment on whether Christ did or did always gentle his tongue. Regardless, He above all others, as Creator, Savior, Reedemer, He who is called: Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace may just have some leeway we of a lesser stature do not by right enjoy.

  65. mahnahvu on December 6, 2005 at 3:33 am

    Jim F. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

    This is one of most important truths that I have learned in the past decade. It has had a profound influence on my life and my relations with others. Thanks for reminding us about this central gospel principle.

  66. Jim F. on December 6, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Number 57 shows why I believe that P. G. Karamesines is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. (And it also shows how much she sees and hears in language.) If you’ve not been reading at A Motley Vision ( http://motleyvision.blogspot.com/2005/09/about-patricia-karamesines.html ), you should start. It is a good site all around, but Patty is the best there.

  67. Tatiana on December 6, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Jim F. #66, you’re exactly right.

  68. P. G. Karamesines on December 6, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    Oh good grief, talk about a threadjack. Not to mention a conversation stopper. Jim, couldn’t you just have said something like, “‘De-mean,’ ha-ha, Patty, that’s … er, funny”???

    Thanks for the overly kind words anyway (you, too, Tatiana). As for AMV, it’s a neat little site. William Morris has done a lot of work to establish and keep it up. I was just out doing a little internet hitchhiking and he and his blog picked me up. I’m also quite happy with the company I get to keep–Eric Russell and Kent Larsen.

    But haven’t you got anything to say about the comment’s content directly, or did you just deliberately kill your own thread to avoid doing that?

  69. Jim F. on December 7, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    No, I wasn’t just trying to kill the thread. I found your insight quite provocative. It too often describes me well, and tt would help me to remember that it also often fits well those whose anger I encounter. We should have respect as well as sympathy for those who find themselves staring into the abyss at the edge of their thinking.

  70. P. G. Karamesines on December 8, 2005 at 12:16 pm

    About the bloggernacle, I appreciate the overall atmosphere. It reminds me of something Leslie Norris said of the BYU English dept. 25 years ago. He’d been in faculties in many educational establishments and said that he liked working at BYU because when squabbles did break out they almost always resulted in apologies and people making up with each other. He said BYU was remarkable that way (this may have changed by now–environments do). I took his word for it, but when I went to the UofA I experienced it firsthand. I witnessed professors openly scoffing at and fighting with each other in the hallways. Grad students who’d been there longer took pains to instruct me. “If you talk to Professor A, don’t mention you’ve spoken already with professor B! He HATES professor B!” Etc. It ended up being a burden to keep it all straight.

    The snowball fights on the bloggernacle sometimes get out of hand, but to my eye at their worst they look like nasty snowball fights. No Heart of Darkness stuff going on here. But then, I’ve been following the LDS blog scene for less than a year and may have missed something.

    As per forgiveness and repentance: do you think human forgiveness might at its best be a form of repentance–i.e., ceasing to feel offended = changing our way of being? Sometimes it seems that the concept of forgiveness has been reduced to the mere social ceasefire accord of accepting of an apology. Actual change, if it occurs at all, is laid wholly on the shoulders of the apologizer.

  71. Jim F. on December 8, 2005 at 1:22 pm

    I think you’re right about the bloggernacle: compared to what could and does happen otherwise, this is generally tame.

    I’ve thought about forgiveness requiring a change of being before. Genuine forgiveness requires something more than accepting an apology, it requires genuinely no longer being offended–or not being offended in the first place, which may be either easier or more difficult. I hadn’t thought of it before as a kind of repentance, but I think that is an excellent description. If I forgive, my way of being in the world is different than it was. What previously offended me no longer does, so I have repented of being offended in the first place.

  72. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    “Genuine forgiveness requires something more than accepting an apology, it requires genuinely no longer being offended–or not being offended in the first place, which may be either easier or more difficult.”

    I coudn’t disagree more, if I understand you right. It sounds to me like you’re saying that forgiveness requires me to give up my ideas of right and wrong. Not only is this disturbing, but I think it diminishes forgiveness’ moral force, given that I’m now forgiving not from love or mercy but because I’m convinced myself that I had no cause to be upset in the first place.

  73. P. G. Karamesines on December 8, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Adam (#72), permit me to be so bold as to say you’re remarkably quick with that elegant and sharp sword of yours. I’ve felt the thrill of it coming within an inch of my own throat over at AMV. But I don’t see cause for drawing it here. How does Jim’s comment require anybody to give up their ideas of right or wrong? I see it as possibly suggesting the opposite: that as we progress towards fullers understandings of right and wrong, we develop a more, say, eternal perspective, permitting us the freedom of not taking the words or actions of others so personally (hence we won’t be offended). This does not mean we won’t defend right or wrong, only that we may choose to defend them differently from how we may have in the past. With greater charity. And greater clarity.

  74. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    “I coudn’t disagree more, if I understand you right.”

    Sister Karamesines–
    I think I may not be getting it. But it seems to me that the process of coming to a fuller understanding of right and wrong is not the same as forgiveness, though laudable. If they are equated, then it seems to me that you must be saying that anger is the only wrong. This is inherent, I think, in your idea that forgiveness is a kind of repentance, which implies that being offended is sinful. I admit that sometimes forgiveness involves repentance, but I reject the idea that it always does, because I believe that sometimes anger and offense are just, because real wrongs have been done.

  75. P. G. Karamesines on December 8, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    “But it seems to me that the process of coming to a fuller understanding of right and wrong is not the same as forgiveness.”

    Agreed. Not all coming to a fuller understanding of right or wrong involves forgiveness. But IMO much forgiveness involves coming to fuller understanding of right or wrong.

    “This is inherent … in your idea that forgiveness is a kind of repentance, which implies that being offended is sinful.”

    I do imply that being offended is sinful. But I don’t imply that being offended is ONLY full of sin. Being offended also lays ground for wonder, as in “Why is this getting to me like this?” I mean true wonder, the kind that makes you strain your eyes to see what might be out there just beyond sight.

    IME taking offense has the usual results giving offence does: it causes everyone to dig in deeper all the way around. What do you love, Adam? Perhaps finding ways to make it possible for people to love what you love might open things up more for everyone involved. Also, I suspect it might engage your native creativity more fully.

    BTW, how did you get the italics in your comment? I can’t figure out how to do that.

  76. Eric Russell on December 8, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    This conversation is awesome. First, I want to agree with Jim F. in 66, and say that P.G.K. is smarter than the rest of us combined.

    Secondly, I want to agree with Jim F. in 71, and say that it’s evident that Jim has either influenced, been influenced, or probably both, by his good colleague Warner. Either that or the two are both independently pure-hearted geniuses, which is just as true.

    I agree that forgiveness is indeed an act of repentance. So much so that, when forgiving, one is actually often in need of asking forgiveness of the person being forgiven. Adam Greenwood says, “sometimes anger and offense are just, because real wrongs have been done.� But do even the most real wrongs justify the wrong of offense? It seems to me this is an eye for an eye attitude, that two wrong make a right. My obligation to love the other is in no way diminished by the other’s actions. The idea that the other’s wrong behavior justifies my wrong feelings seems to be exactly the idea that Jesus was trying counter in the sermon on the mound.

  77. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2005 at 4:14 pm

    So here’s why I can’t accept that all forgiveness is repentance. It requires that anger and the realization that one has been offended against be inherently sinful. But God is angry and God realizes that he has been offended against. Therefore they aren’t inherently sinful. Particular instantiations of those phenomena can be, but they can’t all be.

    P.G. Karasemines,
    you do italics by typing a less-than symbol, an i, a greater-than symbol, your text, a less-than symbol, a forward slash, an i, and a greater-than symbol

    I love lots of things. Most relevant to this discussion, I love justice. I love it. It has a sweet savor to me.

  78. Eric Russell on December 8, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Adam, re: your last line. It seems to me that this is why the Savior performed the atonement.

    If a man sins against you he becomes in debt to you. We attempt to collect on that debt by acting unkind in return, whether that means treating them harshly or simply holding a grudge of negative feelings against them. We do this because we feel that justice is necessary.

    But through the infinite atonement, the Savior has already paid that debt for our sakes. Thus, the man that sins against us is indeed in debt, but he owes his debt to God and not to us. As such, when we hold resentful feelings against another person, we are attempting to collect on a debt that does not belong to us.

    Simply stated, justice is not ours, it is the Lord’s. The Lord will forgive whom he will forgive, but to us it is commanded to forgive all men.

  79. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Eric Russell,

    I don’t know that I agree with your view of the atonement. I’ve no fixed views, but I’m think its possible that the atonement does not and cannot force anyone to relinquish the ‘debts’ that are owed them.

    Also, I reject your equation of my ‘anger and realizing you’ve been offended against’ with your ‘collecting on debts by acting unkind.’

  80. P. G. Karamesines on December 8, 2005 at 5:16 pm

    Eric, # 76, Adam says he loves justice. I’ll take that in the root sense of the word–the principle of equitability or or rightness. Of course in his line of work justice assumes certain strict forms. Think maybe, sonnet to the poet. I don’t think Adam’s sense for justice necessarily equates with “eye for an eye.”

    Adam, #77:

    here’s why I can’t accept that all forgiveness is repentance. It requires that anger and the realization that one has been offended against be inherently sinful.

    Well, my point about human forgiveness in #70 above was posed more as a question: Do you think human forgiveness might at its best be a form of repentance, i.e., ceasing to feel offended = changing our way of being? Sometimes it seems that the concept of forgiveness has been reduced to the mere social ceasefire accord of accepting of an apology. Actual change, if it occurs at all, is laid wholly on the shoulders of the apologizer.”

    human forgiveness at its best does not imply all human forgiveness–only human forgiveness at its best, and by speaking about human forgiveness I’m specifically setting aside divine forgiveness for purposes of this conversation. As for God–he may indeed be angry, I don’t know.

    To clarify, I certainly believe there are times when drawing the sword is justified. I’ve done it myself and have found that for the most part simply drawing the sword is enough. Using it–justified only in the most extreme circumstances (i.e. Heart of Darkness situations). I haven’t encountered such circumstances yet. I can imagine conditions where I would. Commenting on the bloggernacle isn’t among them.

    So Adam, I put to you the question I put to Jim: Do you think human forgiveness might at its best be a form of repentance–i.e., ceasing to feel offended = changing our way of being?

    Or let’s change things around: changing our way of being = ceasing to feel offended. At its best, I mean.

    Did I get the italics right?

    Now I have to step away from the computer for a while to feed my disabled daughter.

  81. P. G. Karamesines on December 8, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    Okay, I see the italics worked but I’ve got to get the hang of it. I didn’t mean for para. 5-10 to be in italics.

    Thanks, Adam.

  82. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    As for the italics, you’ll have to judge for yourself. [Update: I think I fixed it. Is that what you wanted?]

    As for forgiveness at its best, I am not sure. I do think forgiveness and repentance is one form of forgiveness. And I think that forgiveness usually (always?) requires self-change. Releasing the debt one feels is owed is not just a matter of accounting. But I don’t think that repentance and self-change are the same thing. Repentance is self-change plus acknowledgement of wrong-doing, maybe. So I guess I’d have to say ‘no, I don’t think that forgiveness as repentance is the highest form of forgiveness.’ But I keep having the nagging feeling that I’m missing something about your meaning.

    I should also note that I’m not sure divine and human forgiveness are different in kind. Maybe.

  83. P. G. Karamesines on December 9, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    Yes, that’s it. Thank you!

    Now let me see if I understand your POV as you appear to be setting it up.

    1. Repentance always implies wrongdoing (taken from your comment # 82): “Repentance is self-change plus acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

    2. So you reject the idea that all forgiveness = repentance because that implies (for you, according to step 1 ) that all forgiveness contains shades of wrongdoing.

    3. You’re willing to grant that some forgiveness involves repentance but some forgiveness involves no wrong-doing on the forgiver’s part.

    4. Anger and taking offense are justified (got your “sweet justice” in here) in cases of great harm.

    5. Justified anger and taking offense are not sins (not wrongdoing) and so require no repentance.

    6. Not taking offense implies abandonment of ideas of right and wrong.

    There appear to be a few logical steps made throughout that aren’t explicit, but there’s a pretty important one between 5 and 6 that may be summed up this way: If someone does you great harm and you don’t take offence, then you must have abandoned your ideas of right and wrong (taken from comment #72).

    Corrections, adjustments, illuminations?

  84. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2005 at 1:48 pm

    Delineated like a champ! I don’t know if ‘taking offense’ is the phrase I’d choose, but its good enough for our purposes. And, yes, your proposition 5.5 is spot on as a statement of my views. You can’t love justice if you don’t react, emotionally, to offenses against it. And if you don’t have any sense of wrongdoing, any right or wrong that’s been outraged, I don’t see that forgiveness has any content. How can you forgive if you dont’ feel aggrieved in the first place? This is what I would argue.

    The problem is that justice and mercy are too large for a mortal to do justice (for lack of a better word) to them both. So I don’t object to some folks being so besotted with mercy and love that they refuse to feel offense or to give place in their inner being to a sense of justice. They’ll have to grow out of it, eventually, but for now they are modeling one part of the divine character for the rest of us. But I would object if someone thought that everyone should follow their lead.

    If this disquisition of mine leads you to believe that you have sufficiently captured my thinking (and it should, because I think you have), would you lay out your thinking? I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not understanding you and Jim F. wholly.

  85. P. G. Karamesines on December 9, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t like “taking offence” either because of vague connotations. Can you suggest a better phrase or shall we just stick with it understanding it’s not perfect?

    I’ll work on laying out my argument, but it may take a little bit of time to work it up. Of course, Jim probably has his own ideas about what he means. I don’t want it to appear that I assume he and I agree on this subject because I don’t know if we do or not.

    BTW, the big “Thank you” in #83 was for the relief you provided when you cleaned up my italics. I really appreciate it when people help me with things like that. Where did I go wrong? Did I forget to put in the forward slash on the second set of italics?

  86. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    No, you put in a third italics command after “human forgiveness at its best” and never closed it off with an end-italics command.

    ‘Taking offence’ is fine. I’d probably prefer ‘feeling offense’ or ‘acknowledging offense,’ as it better captures my view that in some cases there is an offense, objectively speaking, independent of the offended party’s choice of how to react.

  87. Jim F. on December 9, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    I’m grading a huge mound of final examinations now, as well as trying to get the flat cleaned up before we leave London, and packing for travel. As far as I can see, I am more than happy to have P.G. Karamesines stand as my double in this duel. So far she has not only said what I also think, she’s said it better than I would have.

  88. P. G. Karamesines on December 9, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    A duel? Then bystanders must be dying of boredom waiting for one of us to shoot the other. Probably, though, most bloggerfolk are otherwise engaged at a Richard Bushman discussion.

    Adam, Originally I put forth no argument (as you have), simply posed a question to Jim to explore an idea: “Do you think human forgiveness might at its best be a form of repentance–i.e., ceasing to feel offended = changing your way of being (as per Jim’s proposed definition of repentance)?”

    Before we got very far you made it clear that you had something to say about this. In order to try to understand your POV I proposed a few points, none of which are developed in the slightest:

    1) IMO much forgiveness involves coming to a fuller understanding of right or wrong.

    2) Being (feeling?) offended is sinful, but full of sin isn’t all it is.

    3) Taking offense has the usual results giving offence does: It causes every one to dig in deeper all the way around.

    Your responses to these points helped me to understand you had a somewhat implicit assumption (5.5), “If somebody does you great harm and you don’t take (or feel) offense, then you must have abandoned your ideas of right and wrong.”

    You added in #87 above (paraphrasing): “in some cases offense occurs whether or not the wronged party chooses to take or feel offense.” I take this to mean that you don’t believe that in such cases the person failing to take offence has necessarily abandoned his ideas of right or wrong?

  89. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    “You added in #87 above (paraphrasing): “in some cases offense occurs whether or not the wronged party chooses to take or feel offense.â€? I take this to mean that you don’t believe that in such cases the person failing to take offence has necessarily abandoned his ideas of right or wrong? ”

    No, no, on the contrary. Those are precisely the cases where a person is denying justice or separating themselves from justice by not feeling offense.

    Perhaps we are having a boredom duel?

  90. P. G. Karamesines on December 10, 2005 at 1:03 am

    “Perhaps we are having a boredom duel?” You mean to see who keels over first from sheer boredom? Could happen, but I’m learning things so it ain’t gonna be me (if you go first, I win, dubious though the victory may be). I just thought not enough blood’s being shed to engage most people’s attention. Also gaps in the discussion where I have to break off to take care of household affairs disrupt the flow.

    Okay, I hear you loud and clear on the justice issue. I’ll present my POV by addressing your delineated POV step by step, starting tonight with #1, and I’d like us to stick with it a while to see what happens (unless a more interesting topic demanding immediate attention arises). Maybe we’ll get no farther than point #1. I’m in the middle of packing to move. But the main problem will be that I’m deeply disposed toward the poetical, which some people believe exclusive or masking of the logical. At one time I subcribed to that belief myself but no longer. Good metaphorical language is always deeply logical at its roots (that’s not taking into account that some people believe that all language is metaphorical).

    Also, I’ll state my cases as if I believed them ironclad, but such is not the case. I have a motto: I know I’m wrong, the point is to become less wrong. I’m always wondering what’s out there beyond the furtherest reaches of my thinking. I enjoy conversations like this because they present prospects for finding out.

    Also, as I tell my 16-yr-old logically disposed son, logic ought not to be used as a weapon against others. Logic is valuable in making choices when others present them to you and may be indispensible when one needs to defend oneself, but its best applications arise in considering the value of one’s own thinking. If we take the 10 Commandments, we’re struck (at any rate, I am) by their focus. They never say, “Thy bishop shalt not steal,” or “Jim F. shalt not bear false witness.” Their focus is quite personal: “Thou shalt not.”

    1. “Repentance always implies wrong-doing.” I said that I agreed that repentance implies sinfulness and wrong-doing but that I thought repentance implies more than wrong-doing and that sin isn’t the only thing repentance is full of. Repentance, in fact, is about right-doing more than it’s about wrong-doing. (Not repenting is about wrong-doing.)

    Repentance, associated strongly with the weeping and gnashing of teeth aspects of guilt, often gets a bad rap. For many people guilt IS repentance. Nobody likes guilt; I dislike it so much I rarely do it. I’m more likely to respond, “Oh, I was wrong to do that or to think that. Won’t do THAT again. Cool, where we goin’ now? What’s next?” Repentance is the common grade fuel of human progression. If we are growing we are combusting it (broken heart, contrite spirit) on many levels of our lives all the time.

    I’m not saying that you, Mr. Greenwood, impale repentance upon the the mere splinter of guilt. I’m talking about my own beliefs in order to explore what’s possible in this conversation.

    And I’ll stop there for tonight.

  91. Adam Greenwood on December 10, 2005 at 12:07 pm

    So are we having a syntax disagreement? I define repentance as acknowledging wrongdoing and subsequent change? Whereas you define repentance as change for the better?

  92. DavidH on December 10, 2005 at 1:03 pm

    The bible dictionary states:

    “The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin, and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    In my mind, forgiveness has all of those attributes, except, perhaps, that it does not result from the offendee’s having sinned (at least in the first place).

  93. P. G. Karamesines on December 10, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    Syntax disagreement–possibly. Maybe it’s even as small as a punctuated quibble. But I draw no conclusions yet. Our ideas on this matter don’t appear far apart. On the other 5 points I can’t tell yet how much room there is for discussion. I hope there’s lots.

    I don’t do guilt but upon occasion I experience regret. Such is the case now because I find myself forced to exit this conversation. Not by boredom, but by other clamoring circumstances.

    My ideas about justice are not very developed; I’m content to leave matters of justice in your hands.

    I must say I have not found you to be half the blackguard some have painted you to be. At every turn you have acquitted yourself as a gentleman, except, perhaps, at the outset, when you barged into the room.

    So, till the next time you interrupt a conversation, sword drawn …

  94. Adam Greenwood on December 10, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    My apologies, S. Karamesines, for the interruption. I didn’t realize that you were trying to flesh out an idea between you and Jim F. If so, I would have waited until you had a chance to develop it.

  95. Tatiana on December 10, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    So what was decided here? Is righteous wrath something only God may feel? Is it always a sin to feel it ourselves? This question has puzzled me for a long time.

    I want to testify of something. This came to me in poetic rather than logical form. Once I heard Amiri Baraku (some of you may know him as Leroi Jones) read his some of his poetry live, at the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. There was a poem he read that made me feel an understanding, if for only a moment, of what it really means to be an enslaved human being. The poem had elements of righteous wrath that felt like pure fire from the heavens. It felt purifying. It did not burn like poison, but rather it was like cauterizing a festering wound. I wish I could communicate that experience. I can’t even find the poem again online.

    Maybe what distinguishes righteous wrath from other sorts of anger is that it has no component of self-interest. Maybe we may only feel righteous wrath on behalf of another.

    Or perhaps it is only reserved for God. Yet somehow I feel that’s not quite true. Maybe it’s very hard to do correctly, so that we almost always botch it up and commit worse sin ourselves when we try. But I think it may be possible to do it right. We do have those divine examples, after all.

    I await with impatience your thoughts.

  96. gst on December 10, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    Perhaps it was the poem wherein he accused the Israelis of being complicit to the 9/11 attacks, and also called Secretary of State Rice a “skeeza.”

  97. Tatiana on December 11, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    gst, I don’t really know what you were trying to say, other than perhaps that you distrust the poet Amiri Baraku. However, I did feel that understanding, just for a short while, of what it would mean to be a human being enslaved, and that was a powerful and true experience. I do respect him as an artist and a person.

    I am really hoping the brilliant lights here at T+S will be able to help me clear up my understanding of righteous wrath. It is a moral question that has puzzled me for at least 30 years. There’s a deep conflict for me between Christ’s sermon on the mount, and my personal experience of abuse, in which I have found that righteous wrath can make significant contributions toward teaching abusers better behavior and making the world overall a better place.

  98. Seth Rogers on December 11, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    “I am really hoping the brilliant lights here at T+S will be able to help me clear up my understanding of righteous wrath.”

    Well …

    That rules me out.

  99. theresitalee on May 29, 2006 at 4:55 am

    im a evil mother! !!