My first trip out of the great state of Texas was as an 8-year old boy. My mom and I went to Disney World with my then best friend and his mom. In my young age, I didn’t realize how expensive a trip like that was, but looking back, I’m aware of the sacrifices my family made so we could go on that trip. Like many Disney World vacations, I have lots of memories. I remember riding Space Mountain (it actually broke while we were on it, so we were stopped with the lights on…it’s not as big of a ride as you might think!), and being scared of the witch on the Snow White ride. I remember how the laser lights turned the “Spaceship Earth” (Epcot’s famous silver sphere) into a virtual spinning globe, and how I got to video conference with someone who was somewhere else (a primitive version of the Skype that many of us can do from our smartphones). I remember the Parade of Lights. I also remember walking down Main Street, USA and running into a family from our home town. Yes, you heard that right! Not only were they from our home town, but they went to church with us every week! Here we were 873 miles from home and we unwittingly ran into some people who lived just a few miles away from us that were there at the exact same place at the exact same time. Not only were we that far from home at the same time, but among the thousands of visitors in the Magic Kingdom that day, our paths crossed in the exact spot! I’m not a mathmetician, but the probability of this is somewhere up there with Mike and Mike’s Liam’s mom’s NCAA tournament bracket that picked, not only the two winning teams, but also the final score within 2 points!
I use this story as a reminder to all bloggers out there. This happenstance meeting is something that happens every day in our virtual world of the internet. And while you may think nobody ever reads your blog or cares what you have to say, I can attest that nothing can be further from the truth. This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
I had to post an apology a couple of weeks ago on this blog. I witnessed an incident that raised some questions with me which I wanted to get some input from others. In the process, I very candidly shared some opinions. As the internet would have it (Disney World moment coming…), the very ones I had discussed in the blog discovered it somehow, and my discussion starter became a virtual Gatling Gun aimed at a fairly large group of people. I realized at that point that I needed to have a better filter on my heart and on my keyboard before I blog. This event has honestly changed my life. It has taken me weeks to get over the hurt I caused. I did receive forgiveness and grace from the leader of the group I hurt, and this has been a tremendous reminder of God’s forgiveness. But if there is any way I can allow you to benefit from my hard lesson, I want to share that. So here are a few blogging tips that have changed the way I hope to write in the future.
1. The internet is smaller than you think. Whether you are discussing the doctrines of Rob Bell, or the fact that your neighbor mows his yard in black dress socks, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the people in your post to read. He/she may never find it, but if that ever happened, what could be the consequences? I hope to apply this philosophy to my postings regarding Christian media personalities and celebrities. I don’t know how famous a person has to be in order for our opinions of them to be a “free-for all”. The Christian community was forming opinions and writing all kinds of things a couple of weeks ago about Rob Bell. About the same time, just about everybody with a voice had something to say about Charlie Sheen and his recent antics. Does the fact that someone is famous (or even famously opinionated) give us the right to just say whatever we want to say about them? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I’m thinking that just because someone is famous and that the internet allows us to express our opinions to hundreds, thousands, or even millions, that doesn’t mean we can or should be hurtful. Even Charlie Sheen has feelings, right?
2. If you have a grudge with someone, work it out face to face-don’t post it on the internet. Matthew 18:15 is a great passage where Jesus himself tells those worshiping at the Temple that if their brother (or sister) has sinned against them, they are to go make it right with them before they bring their offerings to worship. While this obviously applies to believers, I have found that just about anybody can “get our goat” (as we say in the country), when they’ve hurt us. Before we worship, we should get in contact with that person and politely express our concerns…not vent on Facebook or our blog site. In the times that I’ve heeded this passage, I’ve found that the sooner the better. Sometimes your efforts will not be met halfway and that’s okay. That same chapter has instructions for that, too. But the point is that if we are the ones who are hurt or offended, then we need to take the initiative in making it right. If it’s someone you’ve never met, try to find a time to meet with them and get to know them better before you make any judgments of them.
3. Strive to be helpful in your blog. Ephesians 4:29 says that we should not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouth (keyboards), but only what is beneficial for building up others, according to their needs (paraphrase). I am not in Rotary Club, but the last two pastors I’ve had at my church are both active members. My current pastor has a plaque in his office with this “Rotary 4-Way Test” on it to guide our speech.
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
4. Give others the benefit of the doubt. If somebody has done something with which you really struggle, take some time to try and figure out the benefits to what they did. Sometimes all we can see is the negative. When all we see is negative, then often times we become quite negative ourselves. But when we look for the positive aspects of things that make us question, it’s a lot easier to understand. Then if you still can’t get past it, remind yourself of point #1 and let it go.
When I made my regrettable post a couple of weeks ago, I completely did not follow these guidelines in my post. And regardless of why I did it, the huge lesson for me was that motivations don’t matter, only the results matter. The result was an internet nightmare that left me kicking myself for weeks and continually asking God to 1) forgive me, and 2) to help me let go of it.
Are there tips/tactics you use to help formulate what you do or don’t post on blogs and social media? Are there lessons you’ve learned by posting things that later you wish you hadn’t. “Dear God, please help us to be responsible with the voices of influence you’ve given us!”