Do you fight with words instead of fists?
Writers of books, blogging gurus, and professors alike often advise that the best way to capture an audience is to argue against something. You must have a counter-point, they say, for you to get attention. There must be an argument, a thesis, which will anchor your paper. I teach my students the importance of a strong thesis in order to write a persuasive argument. However, what I struggle with is the encouragement to stir the pot without skin in the game. Excuse the mixed metaphors there, but what I’m really saying is that in some cases, the proposal is motivated by such forces that it is intentionally contentious. The whole point is to push the boundaries, maybe for publicity, but definitely in finding your niche.
The tough stuff of life has one positive aspect – it makes it painfully obvious which arguments are all bluff and bluster and which are actually worth fighting about.
Some of the bloggers, writers, and commentators, I admire most do write about issues of the day. They write about the controversies that are arising within the church and within the societies of their respective countries. I admire them, I find their writing challenges me and sometimes I am prompted to write a piece of my own offering fragments of thoughts about the topic at hand, or situation. But to be honest, I often personally find that many of the difficult topics, the struggles and abuse within the church, the structures of oppression that plague our societies, the mistreatment of those without agency overwhelming — though they break me and my heart — I simply do not have the emotional energy to enter into the fray.
I am living the life in front of me day by day, and though I have a voice, and I offer that voice here and elsewhere, I’ve had to learn that I cannot be a one-woman news bureau and op-ed writing service and actually hope to produce good writing on every, or even most, topic that comes within my peripheral vision. I don’t even have the energy to write about every issue I care about or every situation that calls to be talked about and reflected upon.
Because, let’s not kid: If you say something, anything, with conviction there will be a backlash — sometimes you expect it, other times it comes out of (seemingly) nowhere. I think it’s irresponsible to throw words out and not engage with those who read what you have to say. So, you have to be ready to answer for what you have written, sometimes to explain, sometimes simply to move the discussion along a little.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not backward in coming forward, yet I do not yearn or endeavour to be contentious for the mere sake of it. I believe that I am called to be slow to anger, abounding in love. But, I do get upset when I see others treated badly, and when the ‘right to rebuke’ is applied arrogantly. I also take issue when someone’s faith is questioned because they have taken the time to call into question the disingenuity of those that are making their living out of reinforcing conflict that simply may not exist without them to stir (or at least exists in a less ‘made for prime time’ way).
Indeed, how much time do you want to spend being critical and cynical and ‘rebuking’? – there’s a negativity to the exclusivity of truth. Or at least there is an exclusivity when you think the result of your hermeneutic is unmitigated Truth. I believe that Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the Life. You are not. I am not. You can have your truth, but your truth is not inevitably Truth.
Mostly though, I just can’t seem to get angry enough. I just don’t have the energy. Sad I can do. Broken-hearted I find myself. Thoughtful, contemplative, self-righteous, analytical, definitely, but I find (mostly) that angers escapes me. It’s just not an emotion I have much use for, at least on my own part.
When faced with vitriol or anger by others, my response has been to withdraw into myself, like a shelled creature on the beach of life. If you do have something constructive to say, say it with honour, with integrity and with humility. Say it firmly but without disingenuity. For my part, I feel far more energised and hopeful when I seek to go out and build up, to give, to honour, and to seek truth. And maybe, sometimes, we do need to follow the advice of our mother’s and grandmother’s (slightly edited) – “If you have nothing productive to say, don’t say anything at all”!
Anna Blanch is an Australian-born writer and photographer. In 2014, she will embark on an epic adventure traveling Overland From Australia to London (via Russia and Japan) by train and ferry. You can follow this adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook. More of her photography can be viewed here.