Monday, April 25, 2011


Interrupting negative and/or stereotypical language is not fun. I have been told that those of us who do are "over-sensitive" or "holier-than-thou." I'll concede that I am sensitive to language and behaviors which perpetuate hatred or misinformation. But the idea that I feel righteous is completely erroneous.

When I hear statements like "All Christians are hatemongers," my knee-jerk is to contradict or correct. However, fast on the heels of that thought are dozens of other reactions, most concerned with my personal well-being.

"They're going to hate me if I say something."
"They'll think I'm a prude."
"They won't speak freely in front of me again."

Then come the rational thoughts such as, "What is the most effective way to say something?" After all, while I don't wish to alienate anyone - especially those whom I like or with whom I enjoy talking about other subjects - it is rarely effective to go on the attack or to be defensive.

In face-to-face interactions, I rarely have time to dwell on these issues. The moment passes or the conversation changes course and I've lost an opportunity to present another point of view if I don't respond quickly enough. I make plenty of mistakes and sometimes do miss my chance.

Using social media, I get more time to consider my personal safety and the best way to respond. This is a mixed blessing, however. I wind up agonizing over my desire for social desirability. I edit my response endlessly hoping that the post's author can hear me and possibly consider my point of view. Yesterday, a person on a discussion board, who states his opinions well in other matters, made a very cruel joke about Christianity. Perhaps his intent was satire (I like to give the benefit of the doubt), but if so, it failed. I carefully weighed (and edited and re-edited) my response. I said something to the effect that, although I am not Christian, I do not make fun of Christianity or any other religion. He deleted his comment, but another poster said that she makes fun of all religions equally. Rather than comment on that, I simply deleted my comment because it identified the first person by name.

Did I do the right thing - either time? I don't know. I do know that I awoke with it on my mind this morning. I have probably alienated at least two people whose opinions I value. I have no idea whether my remarks made a positive difference for anyone. I feel neither self-satisfied nor particularly righteous. Believing that I did the right thing is not a significant comfort to me, and it is a very lonely comfort, as well.

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