My time is just about gone. Tomorrow, I return to the anonymity of the commenter – responding to posts that others have written, instead of wondering whether anyone will respond to mine.
I have been blogging for a relatively short time. I started exclusively on my brother-in-law’s blog last year, then I started looking for other sites to peruse at the beginning of this year. After being annoyed and sickened and generally disappointed for a month or so, I found this site (and that other one that cannot be named), was impressed by the atmosphere that generally permeates them and gradually settled into a comfortable relationship. I truly enjoyed the fellowship I experienced, and the Gospel-centered intellectual discussions were stimulating and instructive. In a very real and wonderful way, I realized I had found a community of believers that inspired and challenged me – and, just like my biological and ward families, drove me nuts periodically.
I accepted the recent invitation to guest post with just a bit of trepidation – which, if you knew me very well, you would find slightly surprising and amusing. I am not shy, nor am I hesitant to express an opinion or share a view. I have been performing in public since I was six – when I sang at a cousin’s missionary farewell. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was nervous about speaking in front of a group of people – familiar faces or total strangers. Therefore, my reaction to the invitation to guest post here surprised me as much as it surprised my wife. It just wasn’t like me. That reaction, as well as the actual experience itself, taught me a few things – and I would like to share them with you as I wave good-bye and fade back into the crowd.
1) When I first started blogging, I overstepped my bounds occasionally. I had to learn to check my natural sarcastic and teasing wit at the door until others knew me well enough to understand that I was kidding – that I really meant no disrespect whatsoever. Posting brought new insight into that initial experience – since it gave me the chance to post something and hope that others would understand what I was trying to say without belittling it. I am a passionate parser – and have been as long as I can remember. (Just ask my HS English teacher, who took extra care to write his tests in such a way that I would have no way to argue afterward that my answer really was a legitimate response to the question he actually asked – not the one he meant to ask. He earned his salary with me.) Posting made me even more aware of the need to be extremely careful to write what I mean to convey – to not assume that others would understand what I had meant to say. I have not been successful every time, but I also learned the value of the “Edit” button – not for what others have said, but rather to correct what I had said to reflect more accurately what I had meant to say.
2) I learned that arguments or misunderstandings often occur when I and others read something in a post that pushes our buttons – and when we react to that tidbit without carefully reading and considering everything else in the post – without putting the tidbit back into its overall context. I had one experience where a few of us exchanged multiple messages from “opposite” perspectives – only to realize in the end that we really were saying much the same thing. This reinforced my natural tendency to slow down, read carefully and not respond immediately upon reading a portion of a post – to read my response out loud and see how I would react if those words were said to me.
3) I learned just how much I see this community as an extension of my friends and family. It surprised me how quickly I thought of this group after my father told me of my niece’s death – how quickly I decided to share what happened and what he said with all of you. I also learned just how deeply I value our association as I read your responses and realized how much my Bloggernacle family really does care.
4) I learned how little I care about the number of comments my posts generate. At first, I must admit, I wondered about that. I can’t say I worried about it – or spent any real time thinking about it, but I did wonder. I know exactly how I could have generated more comments, but I realized right away that I didn’t give a large mouse-like creature’s hind quarters. I didn’t want to spark controversy or ignite passionate debate. There is a place for that, and sometimes that place is here, but I simply wanted to share the things of my soul and hope they would mean something to someone.
There are many more things I have learned from this experience, but I want to leave you with just one more – as I begin to climb down from this pulpit and sit back down in the congregation:
We must do all we can to encourage personal thought and reflection and refinement of ideas and intellectual understanding, but I believe we also must do so in a spirit of cooperation and fellowship and respect. We must accept and value dissent and differing perspectives, but I believe we can do so in a manner that is edifying and ennobling and uplifting – not argumentative and belittling and divisive and demeaning. We must protect ourselves from the trolls of the world, but I believe we also must learn to allow those who offend at first to grow into an accepted part of our community. I will be grateful forever that such tolerance was given to me as I ventured into this new world, stepped on toes, said some stupid things and eventually found my place among you.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Hugh B. Brown, when he spoke at BYU in 1958. He said, “”I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissentâ€”if you are informed.
…Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that … in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ‘From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truthâ€”O God of truth deliver us’.”
Thank you, administrators, for giving me this opportunity – and thank you, everyone else, for suffering this fool to share my thoughts with you for a season.