fallen from grace

We noticed. My kids noticed, too. We have multiple sports fans in the family, so while it wasn’t discussed much at first, we all were paying attention. Once again, for the first time in years, Tiger Woods was relevant. At the lesser-known Valspar Championship — one of manifold Masters warm ups — Woods is again flirting with the leaderboard. He has played some excellent golf this weekend, as once again, in a seemingly instant nostalgic return, the silent gallery swarmed around him, progressing from hole to hole.

“It was his back, right?”

True. Since April of 2015, Woods has undergone three microdiscectomy procedures and a spinal fusion to deal with a disk issue in his lower back. At one point last fall, in fact, there was ample question of whether he would ever golf again. Hence, Woods has been largely AWOL and irrelevant the last four years on the PGA tour.

“But it was more than physical, yes?”

Also true. Tiger was the top-ranked golfer in the world for 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and again for 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010; his dominance was unprecedented. That dominance was then pierced by the sudden, shocking revelation that the world’s most famous golfer — the married father of two — engaged in more than a dozen extramarital affairs. He proceeded to lose millions in endorsements, publicly apologize, reveal a sex addiction, and eventually divorce his wife.

Talk about fallen from grace.

Last week we observed something similar. Here was Kobe Bryant, accepting the Academy Award for the best animated short film, seemingly sincerely moved while publicly lauded. And yet in the current #MeToo environment, it was Bryant who in 2004 publicly acknowledged that he had an adulterous sexual encounter with a 19 year woman who “did not consent.” Kobe, too, fell from grace, also losing significant corporate endorsements and public respect.

So when one falls from grace, what does it take to be relevant and accepted once again?

Is it forgetting?

Do we just allow enough time to pass so we no longer remember the cracks in the character of the adult men and women we used to cheer on?

Do we let time go by, hopefully numbing the emotion we felt when people we loved did such dastardly things? Maybe if we forget, we never have to wrestle with some of the resulting inconvenient truths in our desired, ongoing support.

Or is it, rather, forgiving?

I recognize that forgiveness is not always a popular choice. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun, and I know we avoid it sometimes because it’s the only thing we can always hold against the person who hurt or disappointed us deeply. As one who bought both #8 and #24 Laker jerseys for one of my sons, for example, I was especially disappointed in Bryant’s behavior; I was angry I then had to have a more sensitive and sad conversation with my too young adolescent.

The key to forgiveness is the profound reality that it doesn’t allow the offender to get off the hook; it allows us to get off the hook — to no longer have to hold onto the anger and bitterness that potentially take root within ‘me.’ Let’s be honest: that looks good on no one.

As for the offender, in addition to understandable consequences for his/her behavior, he/she will still have some work to do… repentance, growth, and making amends. That is his/her responsibility.

Hence, for the person who repents — and for the person who forgives — I will enthusiastically cheer. Grace and forgiveness are always worth cheering for.

Go Tiger, go… hope you do well this weekend. And more.

Respectfully…
AR

pick a number — any number

So let’s try this a different way today, seeing if we can describe the excellent, insightful meme…

You stand here. On the “X.”

I’ll stand directly across from you — only 10 feet away. On the “Y.”

Smack-dab in the middle of us — equidistant from us both — you see right in front of you, the number “6.”

You see it. You’re close to it. It’s not blurry in any sort of way. It is clearly a “6.” No doubt about it.

I, on the other hand, see the number “9.”

I’m close to it. It’s not blurry. It’s clearly a “9.” No doubt about it.

I’m convinced I’m right… and I am.

You’re convinced you’re right… and you are.

Two different people see the same thing totally differently; in fact, from my vantage point, it is totally impossible for me to see what you see.

From your vantage point, it’s impossible for you to see what I see.

And yet, we are both correct.

What would it change in our dialogue, discussion, and our respect for one another, if we had were patient enough to take the time necessary to invest in deep discernment? … to do the work that it takes that truly wrestles with the perspectives and conclusions of another — and to realize that even though we come from different perspectives and make different conclusions, we are both still, humbly, profoundly right?

Two different perspectives can both be right.

Two strikingly, starkly different perspectives can both be right.

“It’s a ‘6’!”

“It’s a ‘9’!”

It’s actually both.

Can we realize that?

Respectfully…
AR

defined by adversity

Oh, the love of a great story! … even better when it’s non-fiction.

Note the ongoing tale of Shaquem Griffin, who college football fans know as the fastest linebacker in this year’s draft class — and non-football fans will appreciate learning all in life he’s overcome. And not just “overcome.” He has amazingly surpassed and achieved.

Note: Griffin has only one hand.

Because of that one hand, people are tempted to see Griffin differently. Isn’t that the truth? We see only singular traits in other people… a physical feature, an emotional bent, a political passion — and then we judge them on that. That becomes all we see… and it sadly affects all we think about them.

For Griffin, what he’s missing has the potential to affect more than what he offers and has.

He recently wrote to NFL general managers as they consider his worthiness to be drafted. In his excellent, insightful, and sometimes fairly raw account, Griffin inspires and teaches us all…

“Nobody was ever going to tell me that I didn’t belong on a football field. And nobody was ever going to tell me that I couldn’t be great.

I rode that mentality all the way through high school. I got picked on because of my hand and I had guys trash-talk me and stuff like that, but most of the time, I just ignored it. On the football field, I got off to kind of a slow start adjusting to the high school game, but eventually I grew to be a leader and a team captain…

I’m not going to get into an explanation of the condition I was born with that prevented the fingers of my left hand from fully developing. Or talk about the time when I was four years old and I tried to cut my own fingers off with a kitchen knife because I was in constant pain. Or about when I got my left hand amputated shortly after. That’s stuff you probably already know about anyway — and if you don’t, you can Google it. The story is out there. And it’s not some sob story or anything like that. It’s not even a sad story — at least not to me. It’s just … my story…

In our backyard, we had a couple of stacks of cinder blocks with a stick across the top, like a hurdle. And when we would run routes, we would have to jump over the hurdle and do other obstacles mid-route. Then my dad would throw us the ball, and he’d throw it hard, right at our chest. And every time we dropped it, he would say, ‘Nothing comes easy’…

I don’t define myself by my successes. I define myself by adversity, and how I’ve persevered…

I’ve had people doubt me my whole life, and I know that there are a lot of kids out there with various deformities or birth defects or whatever labels people want to put on them, and they’re going to be doubted, too. And I’m convinced that God has put me on this earth for a reason, and that reason is to show people that it doesn’t matter what anybody else says, because people are going to doubt you regardless. That’s a fact of life for everybody, but especially for those with birth defects or other so-called disabilities.

The important thing is that you don’t doubt yourself.

I feel like all the boys and girls out there with birth defects … we have our own little nation, and we’ve got to support each other, because everybody in this world deserves to show what they can do without anybody telling them they can’t.

I know there are some scouts and coaches — and even some of you GMs out there — who are probably doubting me, and that’s O.K. I get it. I only have one hand, and because of that, there have always been people who have questioned whether or not I could play this game.

If you’re one of those GMs who believes that I can play in the NFL, I just want to say thank you. I appreciate you, and I’m excited for the opportunity to play for you and prove you right. And if one you’re of those who is doubting me … well, I want to thank you, too. Because you’re what keeps me motivated every day to work hard and play even harder. Back when I was eight years old, I played because I loved the game. I still do. But now, I also play because I believe it’s my purpose. I know that it won’t come easy. Nothing comes easy. But I will fulfill that purpose. I have no doubt.”

I’m struck by Griffin’s articulateness, poise, confidence and humility, and his clear recognition of both God’s creation and his individual purpose.

So wise… and so good.

Respectfully…
AR

are you virtuous?

In the 2004 “Character Strengths and Virtues” handbook, six classes of core virtues are identified, made up of 24 measurable “character strengths.” They are as follows:

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation
  2. Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, zest
  3. Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  4. Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  5. Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control
  6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

To every positive, there exists a negative; to every good, there exists an evil — every synonym, an antonym. So what are the antonyms and opposites of each of the above?

The opposite of “wisdom and knowledge” is folly and ignorance.

The opposite of “courage” is cowardice.

The opposite of “humanity” is hate.

The opposite of “justice” is partiality.

The opposite of “temperance” is rashness, brashness, arrogance, and unforgivingness.

And the opposite of “transcendence” is unimportance and inferiority.

It’s not rocket science to suggest that most of us wish to be virtuous — to be men and women of strong, solid, and uncompromising character. But why is it that in so many of our dialogues — we are marked more by our opposites above than by our strengths?

… we might claim to love humanity, and yet we show openly show hate toward someone…

… we might claim to be men and women of great temperance, and yet, we withhold forgiveness toward at least a few…

… and we might claim to be wise and knowledgeable for our years, and yet, we are not open-minded in sincerely listening to the person who comes from a varied angle.

It seems, therefore unknowingly, that our society has been lured into believing a complete lack of virtues and strengths is acceptable… especially when talking about any dicey or difficult matter; it’s why an increasing number choose never to discuss money, politics, religion, or sex.

Consistent with the Intramuralist’s advocacy for always embracing what’s good and right and true, we would be wise to remember when we are most tempted to disguise the wrong for a right — to accept the total lack of virtue.

I was reminded again this past weekend of the “H.A.L.T.” theory…

When am I most tempted to act inappropriately? When am I most tempted to withhold love, forgiveness, fairness, and far more? When am I most tempted to lash out, forgetting my deep desire to treat and love all people well?

… when I am…

Hungry…
Angry…
Lonely… or…
Tired.

When I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I am most tempted to forgo what I know to be good and right and true.

In many of the recent Intramuralist discussions, one observation that repeatedly arose was the increased levels of anger in our country — manifesting itself in various ways, but typically, often destructive.

HALT.

May we attempt to remember what’s virtuous… and pause when the temptation to do otherwise is lurking.

Respectfully…
AR

Photo by yatharth roy vibhakar on Unsplash

be brave (kind, too)

One of the Intramuralist’s primary aims is to focus on that which is good and right and true; life isn’t long enough to invest in the unhealthy. With the flip of the calendar, I’ve noticed several longtime friends encouraging the same, inspired by a recent segment on CBS News Sunday Morning.

“Think kindness,” said the segment’s initial promo. Host Jane Pauley then begins by asking, “When was the last time you even thought about kindness?”

In the current cultural state in which we are often known more for what we are against rather than what we are actually for, what if we were, so-to-speak, for kindness?

Would that not be a welcome change?

Said one-on-the-receiving-end on CBS, “Someone did something for us that we did not expect them to do.” That lack of expectation is what makes kindness so special. It intrinsically prompts genuine joy, humility, and thanksgiving. It’s also something we are all capable of doing.

“We’re genetically wired to be kind. It’s actually our deepest identity,” said featured author and former organic chemist, David Hamilton. “It’s when we’re not being kind that it’s unhealthy.”

Kindness isn’t something we just do; it’s something we need, says Hamilton. Note that kindness is the opposite of stress. Yet we live in a culture which sometimes seems to subconsciously, actually choose stress, thinking for some no doubt, non-God-honoring reason, that kindness must be earned.

Kindness doesn’t have to be any grand gesture. It could simply be a smile or an affirming word. It could be the consistency of random acts… especially in social media or in circles not known to be consistently kind.

In the news morning segment, CBS introduced a couple who set out to do one small act of kindness every day for an entire year. (Let me say that again: every day for an entire year.) They acknowledged that at first, a lot of their friends made fun of them, but they continued, and quickly began to inspire others by posting their stories on social media with the accompanying hashtag, “KeepAmericaKind.” They shared tales of filling expired parking meters with coins, baking cookies for strangers, and sending pizzas to sheriffs’ departments, for example.

They are not alone. Acknowledging the contagious aspect of kindness, many more have embraced the idea of 52 “weeks” of kindness — #kind52 — aiming for one act and thus one post each week of the year. Note the sweet act from one longtime treasured friend:

“Week 1 of 52 Weeks of kindness. I took a picture of a puzzle that a patient’s husband completed while she was doing radiation. I had the picture printed and I am putting in a picture frame to give to him. This kept his mind busy while his wife was treated. He was so proud of this and I wanted him to remember the beautiful puzzle he had completed. Can’t wait to give it to him!! #kind52.”

And from another:

“Walking into the gym and the young girl from Fry’s grocery store was out gathering grocery carts, which of course were all over the parking lot. There was one just set up on some rocks on the curb, and as she came walking over I looked at her and said I’ve got this one and I pulled it out and took it over to where her line of carts were and placed it in there… It may not be a huge act of kindness but it made somebody’s job just a little bit easier and it let her know how much she’s appreciated. #kind52” 

Oh, how I love this! And oh, how refreshing it is in place of all the rants and raves and finger pointing; the rants and and raves and finger pointing are too often not very kind.

We can do better, friends, but in order to do better, we must be intentional; we must use “the muscle,” so-to-speak. As the segment concluded, if our “kindness muscle” goes unused, it will atrophy, and the urge to be kind will go away.

So if we are going to be kind adults, it’s easier the earlier we begin to exercise the muscle. Such is the thinking of Brian Williams, the founder of “Think Kindness.” Williams goes into schools across the country, encouraging and empowering elementary and middle school children…

“Be brave. Be kind. Change the world.”

Kindness begets kindness. We have the power to change the world.

What if we were known for what we are for?

What if we were known for being kind?

Respectfully…
AR

maximizing the meaning

This Christmas season, let us slow down somewhat. Let us pause long enough to reflect, grasp the meaning, and ask even the tough questions.

But let’s not wait until the 24th or 25th or even for any annual new year resolve. Let’s pause now. Let’s ask the questions now. Let’s maximize the meaning of the season….

Proclamations resound, calling for peace on Earth, goodwill to men…

What does peace on Earth take?
What does it look like?
Do I have a role in this?
What gets in the way?
And how am I contributing to it?

What about goodwill?
Do I really believe in it?
Do I believe instead in goodwill only toward some?
And is that dependent on if another has wronged me?
If they think like me?
Have I limited who I am and who God is by withholding goodwill?

They say the season is miraculous…

Do I believe in miracles?
Do I think they only happened long ago?
Do they happen only in the big stuff or in the practical, too?
What would it change in me if I saw miracles daily? … in my routine?
What keeps me from seeing miracles?

It’s a season of faith, hope, and joy…

Is there an area of my faith in which I know I need to grow?
If I’m refusing to look at that, why?
Where have I assumed I have all the answers?
And hope — pausing this moment to acknowledge what grieves me — am I recognizing the great hope shared this season?
Is it enough for me?

It also is a season of giving — although I don’t think it’s so much about stuff…

Am I focusing more on presents or presence?
Am I spending too much?
Am I focused on stuff?
What about consumerism?
Have I bought into the lie that more is better?
Am I worshipping the so-called god of more?

This season, friends, let’s pause before the actual holidays. Let’s pause long enough to ask the tough questions, maybe refocus a bit, and maximize the meaning of the season.

Respectfully… with a few added Ho-Ho-Ho’s…
AR

what’s most important

Marquese Goodwin has known much success in his 26 years.

He was born in Lubbuck, Texas and attended Rowlett High School. There he had the second fastest 100-meter time in the Lone Star State, was the state champion in the triple jump and long jump, and was a member of the state title-winning 4×100-meter relay team. He won seven team track and field championships.

Goodwin’s success did not stop there.

On scholarship at the University of Texas, Goodwin continued to succeed. In track and field, he was a two-time NCAA champion in the long jump and a four-time All-American in track and field. He won five Big 12 Conference championships and made the All-Big 12 team seven times. His collegiate success then propelled him to the 2012 Summer Olympics, finishing tenth in the long jump.

But Goodwin simultaneously played collegiate football, starting as a receiver and returner, including in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. He has played in the NFL since 2013; he is currently a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.

This past Sunday, the Niners played the Giants. In the second quarter, Goodwin was on the receiving end of a huge play, scoring an 83-yard touchdown, his best play of the year.

As soon as he reached the end zone, Goodwin blew a kiss to the sky, fell to his knees, and made the sign of the cross. He then gently laid his head upon the end zone turf, as several players came and appropriately, gently knelt beside him.

Just hours earlier, his wife, former Longhorn hurdler champion Morgan Goodwin-Snow, had to deliver their first child prematurely due to complications within the pregnancy. The baby boy did not survive.

Said later in an Instagram update by Marquese:

“I just wanna thank those who’ve genuinely prayed for @morganakamomo & myself through out this pregnancy. Unfortunately we lost our baby boy due to some complications, and had to prematurely deliver him early this morning around 4am. Although we are hurt, I am grateful for the experience and grateful that God blessed me with a wife as courageous and resilient as Morgan. The pain (physically, mentally, & emotionally) that she has endured is unbelievable. Please Pray for the Goodwin family.”

I can only imagine the depth of the pain the Goodwin’s feel at this time… and to still go to work. Gut-wrenching.

And while my heart aches for this family, I find myself simultaneously struck by Goodwin’s apparent realization of what’s most important.

When Goodwin crossed the goal line, there was no celebration. There was no dancing. No drama. None of the current clever, often whimsical festivities.

Goodwin did his job, was honest in his emotion, and in his grief, still later was able to acknowledge the great big God of the universe.

My sense is that sometimes we get lost in the game. We get lost in any perceived competition — be it sports, politics, you-name-it. Sometimes we get distracted and derailed. We start to major on the minors, no longer able to recognize what is minor.

My prayer is that we always instead realize what is most important.

God be with the Goodwin family. Pray for them, Marquese humbly requests.

It’s important.

Respectfully…
AR

a social experiment

Every now and then I really like a line on this blog so much, I think it and say it over and over; sometimes it’s more than a line. I keep thinking today of how each of us contributes — knowingly or unknowingly — to the division in this country. As stated Thursday, “Our national divide will never get better if we keep contributing to the fire. We’re adding fuel to the fire with our sideways comments… our angry posts, our cutting comments on social media… the rolling of our eyes when people are sharing their stories.” Yes, we are part of the problem.

I have a good friend with whom I have long bantered over all sorts of stuff… from music and kids to healthcare and home life. We’ve long been able to talk about all. We don’t always agree, but we both recognize that agreement is not necessary for unity; respectful dialogue is always more important. We are both sharpened via such.

In recent months, my friend found herself tempted to be more of the problem, contributing to that division. It’s easy, folks. Sometimes we don’t even recognize our involvement. We feel strongly… react strongly… sometimes even baiting another by posting something provocative… maybe they’ll say something disrespectful or outlandish back… then everyone will see that they are the problem.

Unfortunately, we are part of the problem.

Recognizing such, my friend decided to conduct a small but significant social experiment. With her permission, I share such with you now…

What exactly was your experiment?

I wanted to see if I could change the quality of my Facebook feed and take control of the algorithms. I unfollowed anything political in nature — all news and current event pages — and I unfollowed friends who only post provocative political posts. I also marked all like ads as irrelevant — and I replaced them with pages that promoted peace, joy, kindness, etc. I began liking posts like crazy that were similarly peaceful and positive and then hiding posts that triggered anger, sadness, or hopelessness.

What motivated your experiment?

My feed had become 90% news and politics. Funny thing is that before the 2016 election, I hid many abrasive conservative friends. After the election, I had to hide my abrasive liberal friends, too — who were doing the exact same thing, just from the other side. I don’t care for Pres. Trump, but I didn’t need to hear the sky was falling every time I opened my feed. My gut then told me the steady diet of political opinion was unhealthy and responsible for my emotional funk. I had to change the diet or continue feeling badly.

What have you learned?

I’ve learned that I feel better when I stay clear of the political backbiting. I was taking every snipe personally, feeling defensive and hopelessly unable to control the mess in our country. I’ve become better at observing others without my heart getting so personally involved. I’ve learned it’s pretty easy to change your social media feed.

What has surprised you?

I was surprised how easy it was to change. By limiting my exposure to the bad stuff and focusing on what unites us, I began to feel better immediately.

Do you feel like you know any less than you used to?

No. I can tell if something major happens by other people’s posts. I’m then forced to go to actual, factual news sites, avoiding the provocative spin of social media.

Will you keep it up?

Yes. No second guessing. I want my involvement in social media to promote peace and loving kindness — to all. I don’t want to be drawn into any mudslinging.

What else?

I think it’s important that we take charge of the angry rhetoric being thrown around — rhetoric that only divides us. We need to realize how easy it is to become part of the problem.

My friend also added that she wishes to help build that path to unity — to positively influence those around her — to intentionally build positive relationships.

Building positive relationships… dare I say, so much wiser than any fueling of the fire.

Respectfully…
AR

 

can you feel the tension?

It’s a prudent practice to heed the wisdom in others — recognizing none of us are anywhere close to cornering the market on wisdom. I thus spent some time listening to a wise friend this week. I couldn’t scribble fast enough. Here are my notes… his comments, with a few of my a-ha’s etched in…

The country is divided. Can you feel the tension?

But know what’s true?

We all believe what we believe because we believe it’s best.

But what happens when what I believe is best is different than what you believe is best?

We believe what we believe with passion. We believe it’s best. We also believe unity is best. So what is the path to unity?

Is unity that you agree with me all the time?

Is unity that we all see eye-to-eye on every single thing?

Let’s be clear: unity is not uniformity.

“Unity is oneness of purpose — not sameness of persons.” (as said by Dr. Tony Evans)

There are people who don’t think like us, act like us, look like us, talk like us. So let’s remember that the name of the game is not trying to get you to believe what I believe; the name of the game is not trying to get you to think, act, look, or talk like me either.

True unity can only be found when we minimize our personal preferences. But many of us rubber stamp our preferences and put them above all else… above other people, above divine inspiration and instruction.

What if true unity can only be experienced to the degree that we have accepted undeserved grace?

It’s all about grace. It’s all about grace. It’s all about grace. (Did I mention it’s all about grace?)

But the reality is that undeserved and unlimited grace only comes from God. From everyone else it is limited in some capacity — some way, somehow. From everyone else it only goes so far. Unlimited grace… unearned grace… undeserved. It only comes from One who is bigger and wiser than we. And there’s only one of him.

If you’re a woman, pay attention. If you’re a minority, pay attention. If you’re a woman or a minority, it was Jesus who spoke of your value before any of the movements today.

So want to be part of the solution to the division in this country? Want to be on the path to unity, which most people agree is best? Remember it’s not beating down others so they agree with you; it’s not squelching the voice of varied opinion; it’s not even getting back at them in the next election.

Unity comes only from the awareness of how hugely much God loves each of us. When we recognize how much God loves us and all he’s done for us — and all he’s done for the person next to me, regardless of social status, income, or ethnicity — we learn to treat that person next to us better. We learn to treat him or her with love. All the time.

Hence, learn how to respond with love.

… to those people you can’t stand… to those colleagues at work you just wish would be transferred… away, far away… Respond in love.

Our national divide will never get better if we keep contributing to the fire. We’re adding fuel to the fire with our sideways comments… our angry posts, our cutting comments on social media… the rolling of our eyes when people are sharing their stories…

That’s contributing to the division. That’s participating in the work of someone or something other than God.

Someone mentioned that we are fighting the wrong enemy. So true.

So let’s be part of the solution. Let’s be the leader of humility, kindness, and grace… knowing that available, unlimited grace. It’s something that black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Democrats and Republicans, we all have in common.

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

[FYI: Time with my friend was well spent.]

Respectfully…
AR

is Facebook good?

There aren’t too many times in life when I knowingly continue on in something that isn’t a good idea. Ok, granted, there are a few fast food drive-throughs in which I would be better served to suppress an every-now-and-then craving; routinely, however, I find myself re-examining a habit: is it good? … is it healthy? … or do I need to change some aspect of my behavior?

For years, I’ve enjoyed the contact and communication that comes via social media. I’ve been able to catch up and keep in touch with friends in a fairly fast and convenient way — from my school day besties, peers in Russia and Thailand, to old friends far and new friends near.

Facebook’s “friendaversaries” prompt thanksgiving for our enduring connections. Twitter’s tweets keep us current on the high school sports teams back home. And Snapchat and Instagram each make us smile, offering a real-time glimpse in what’s going on in the life of another. Some even add some rather unique and unusual facial features.

Yet I find myself again examining a somewhat simple idea: is social media good?

Is it good?

Assuming we have reasonable boundaries and the outlet becomes not a time-waster, keeping us from tending to all else that needs to get done in our day, are these websites and apps healthy for us to participate in?

The pictures of peonies and pups certainly brighten my day. The sports team shout outs also make me smile. Truthfully, I even find the daily deluge of pickle posts quite encouraging; while never a fan of the tiny, briny, and (in my semi-humble opinion) still slimy cucumber, at least my friends are thinking of me!

But the question of goodness arises beyond the pickles and puppies. It’s when we substitute a thread or a post for authentic conversation — especially when we’re talking about serious stuff. As one who was exposed to significant conflict growing up, it’s not that I love conflict; it’s more that I believe strongly in handling it well. If we could learn to communicate more respectfully and listen more selflessly in the existence of conflict, I believe we could damper the intensity and avoid much of the relational, collateral damage.

The challenge is that Facebook and Twitter do not do the above; stereotypical participation does not promote respectful communication nor selfless listening. When I utilize my 140 character allowance to opine, for example, that is not dialogue; that is not authentic conversation. It is simply instead a rephrasing of “I just have to say”… “let me tell you how I feel”… or “this is how I think.” How I feel or think does not require me to respect the feeling or thinking of any other. If there is no need to respect the feeling or thinking of another, it seems a foolish trap that even the intelligent fall into.

Remember the wise words an articulate guest writer shared here two and a half years ago, a friend who decided to make a behavioral change on social media:

“… So without even knowing it, I learned that I didn’t have to attend every argument I was invited to. I stopped posting political pieces. Stopped commenting for the sake of starting up a fight. I weighed in here and there but I chose my words carefully and bracketed it with things like ‘respectfully’ and ‘we don’t all have to agree.’ I became mindful that, for most of my Facebook friends, what I posted was the only definition they would have of me. I don’t speak to many of them face to face. They don’t know how I live my life, that there is more to me than my posts and replies. And I didn’t want that to be their truth about me. I am more than just my political beliefs or my religion or my alma mater (though that one I still have a hard time not defending). I am a sum of all of those things and more…”

Authentic conversation helps us know one another deeply and more. And yes, there is more to each of us than our opinions, “sides,” and alma maters (Boiler up). But when we omit the respectful give-and-take and selfless listening vital to authentic communication, we aren’t getting to know another any more than we already do. We are only hearing ourselves think. That doesn’t seem wise.

So is social media good?

Maybe. Those pickle pics make me laugh.

But my sense is, for most of us, it’s more our behavior that may need to change.

Respectfully…
AR