Tuesday, March 29, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home....Day 27

I've been reading articles by "mom bloggers" in which there is a discussion of how open to be on the Internet. One school of thought says that in order to be authentic, we must blog about any and every feeling that comes into our minds -- including some very dark ones. Another school of thought says that we should exercise discretion when blogging.

Despite the fact that I've often spoken and typed with my foot in my mouth, I vote that we all exercise discretion. This old-fashioned concept is much neglected these days. I think this may be a reaction to what was perceived as "phoniness" on the part of prior generations, whose members often abhorred the thought of airing any dirty laundry in public. Some were so private that they did not discuss, even in intimate settings, problems that should have been brought to the light and fixed.

Many in my generation (I'm in the second wave of the baby boom) broke with our parents' way of thinking on this subject. Openness in all things came to be seen as the pathway to self-knowledge, healing, and happiness. Sometimes, the openness was healthy; at other times, it was simply selfish. The desire to be heard sometimes became more important than the feelings of other people.

Enter the Internet and social media, and, suddenly, we are no longer open just in our private lives, but with everyone on the planet. And, we are open not just about ourselves, but about every passing thought we have toward family members, our friends, the neighbor down the street, the person who views religion or politics differently than we do -- you name it.

Sometimes, this openness has a mean spirit about it. We cross the line from commenting about our own opinions to attacking others who see the world differently than we do. I'm saddened, for example, by hate speech I've encountered on what I thought were blogs about science, but turned out to be anti-theist blogs. Of course, that's not the only place that cruel words are found on the net. Sadly, bitter, snarky comments are all too common.

We do need a few godly friendships in which we can be absolutely open, even about the darkest, ugliest parts of ourselves. I'm grateful for having those friendships in my life. These are fellow Christians whom I can trust to listen with compassion and discretion, to pray for and with me, and to help me work things out.

In the right context, bringing things into the light is healing. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I don't know about you, but I am thankful for that!

Notice, however, it is our own sins we are to bring into the light. When it comes to others, we are to be discreet and kind. Proverbs 11:13 says, "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter." Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."

Isn't that something to be grateful for? We can build each other up and give grace to those who hear our words. Expressing words that build up, rather than tear down, requires some thought on our part, however. If we want whatever comes out of our mouths to be productive, we first have to train our hearts to be kind, to look for the good, and to be wise and discerning about what is needed in the moment. Sometimes, our words will be gentle; sometimes, strong -- but they must always be delivered with the other person's best interests in mind.

Maintaining a heart filled with thankfulness and avoiding bitterness also helps us to think clearly and, thus, instructs our speech. We are at our least rational when we brood on bitter thoughts. The words that pour forth from our minds when we feed on bitterness are twisted and damaging. On the other hand, if we are honest about situations, but meet the bad with forgiveness and hope and the good with gratitude, we are able to think and speak more clearly.

Perhaps, when we go over the line in our public communication via social media, it's because we aren't attentive to those close friendships in our life where we can receive real comfort and help. Blogging and social media are no substitute for face-to-face, real-life intimacy. They are merely wonderful supplements to our communication and should not be leaned on for more than what they are.

I'm grateful for the
opportunity to hear words from others that build up. Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Wise, well-timed words are great treasures.


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