I wrote this back in January but chickened out of posting it. This morning, while trolling through a couple of the 147 drafts in my Pending Posts folder (yes, seriously), I came across it and decided to give it some air. We talk a lot about presuming competence (which is absolutely, positively vital), but I’d argue that we don’t talk nearly enough about the presumption of good intention (<– That’s a great post on the topic by E at The Third Glance.) Our energy is finite. We could save an awful lot of it simply by giving one another the benefit of the doubt.
The other night, things got a little out of hand on Diary’s Facebook page. I found myself trying to defuse, then defend, then police. It was more than I could handle. I searched for my rhino skin, but it was nowhere to be found. The doors were wide open and the words came in.
Eventually, I wrote this …
It’s nearly dinner time and I owe it to my family not to be glued to my phone throughout. Heck, I owe it to myself too. Please, treat each other with care. Agree, disagree, think I’m an idiot, I couldn’t care less, just PLEASE be gentle with your words and with each other. And you know what, even with me. Because I try desperately to be so with mine and with you.
You see, I write a blog. And a lot of people read it. More than I might ever have imagined. And when I do, I open myself up – I open my heart, my life, my family. And when I tell our stories, I also open myself up to interpretation (and misinterpretation), to criticism, to anger, to pain, to people needing a target, a face, someone to blame. I get that. I also get that sometimes – often, in fact, there’s a message inside their anger that I need to hear. And I try hard to hear it, no matter how it’s delivered. I try hard to understand that pain can eclipse tact. That raw nerves can catch fire and consume generosity. But I’m human; it hurts.
I’ve been doing this a long time. I write every day. That’s a lot of content. A lot of topics. A lot of opinions. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I wordsmith and check, double check, and triple check – no matter how sensitive I try to be to every perspective out there, there’s no way that I’m going to avoid saying something that hurts someone. And when I do, I will feel awful. But I will also do whatever I can to make it right. And there’s a pretty good chance that all of us will, if we’re willing, learn something together.
When I wrote the post about WebMD the other day, I got a message from a reader. She told me that she had a daughter who was, in her words, severely mentally impaired. She said that she knew that my heart was in the right place, but she wanted me to know that she felt that the tone of the post was hurtful. When I wrote back to tell her that I would add to it ASAP to clarify it and that I felt awful that she found it hurtful, she wrote, “Don’t feel bad … I understand where you’re coming from.”
I added to the post. Because I got it. I get it. The conversation ended with a virtual hug.
Later that night, the comments on FB, along with some on the blog, took a very different turn. Accusatory. Angry. Offensive. Defensive. Hurtful.
I could hear the pain in the words. I knew that the anger was misdirected. But it hurt.
I don’t deserve to be called names. I don’t deserve to be accused of writing what someone chose to read between the lines – words that I did not and would not write. I don’t deserve to be a receptacle for years of hurt.
After four years of turning myself inside out to make everyone feel welcome, included and celebrated here, I deserve the benefit of the doubt. I deserve to be approached through the lens of assumption that I would never, ever mean to hurt anyone. Or exclude anyone. Or demean anyone. And I deserve the assumption that if I do inadvertently, that I will try as hard as I can to fix it.
In other words, I deserve the same respect that I offer to each and every one of you.
I work hard at this. When I respond to your comments, I do it from a place of compassion. I try desperately to look at things from the perspective of others. I do everything I can to be sensitive to your feelings.
I deserve the same.
There are over 14,ooo of us here now. We are not going to agree on everything. And thank goodness, really. If we agreed on everything, we’d never have the chance to stretch and grow and learn and evolve.
But when we don’t agree, we’ve got to express our concerns respectfully. We’ve got to shoulder our bats and reach out our hands and say, “I’d like to ask you to look at this differently.”
Because when the bat is swinging, no one is listening. No one is learning. No one is growing.
Let’s listen, learn and grow together.
It won’t always be easy.
But family dynamics never are.