Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the Facebook of Judgment

I started using Facebook only a little over a year ago (I'm always a late bloomer!). Prior to I had absolutely no interest in participating in one of these social forums, and still don't outside of Facebook. I finally decided to start a page, thinking it could help build my freelance business, which I had just started at that time. I'm honestly not sure that it, so far, has done much in the way of business, but I have surprisingly enjoyed it very much on the personal socializing front. I have come into contact again with many people from my past and also stayed in better touch with some of the people from my present. I am often very bad at consistent communication with many people, so this has been a helpful tool for me in nurturing some of my relationships. Plus, I really enjoy taking those silly, little quizzes. :)

I never would have guessed this before, but Facebook has also been an effective tool in my journey toward complete authenticity. It basically provides a person with a format in which they can make daily self-proclamations, humorous, serious, strange, or whatever you like. I have used it many times to shed my inhibitions and let people know the real me. If you've read some of my other blogs, you'll know that that has not always been easy for me, due to having a low self-esteem. Now that it has improved greatly I'm beginning to get more and more comfortable in shedding my onion layers and letting people see my stinky core! Only kidding . . . well, sort of. It really has been helpful for me to show more of my authentic self, and to be okay with that. Whether or not other people are happy about that is yet to be discovered. :)

I'm going to be very honest here . . .
since exploring this playpen of Facebook, there have been many instances in which I wondered if my attempts at authenticity were indeed a good thing. And I think there may be a couple others on here who have wondered the same. There are some people, myself included, who use Facebook to make social commentaries about the world -- politics, media, religion, etc. Not always, but often these comments lead to more comments from friends, and sometimes to arguments. I have been a participating party in many of those "discussions." At first I tend to think, "Okay, this is good. People are being honest and sharing ideas and viewpoints . . ." And then as they sometimes mutate into more heated discussions, where one or multiple parties involved seem to have become offended and/or hurt, I begin to wonder, "What was the point of this anyway? What did this accomplish?"

Anyone else been privy to that sort of scenario? Do you ever question yourself and your involvement or feel any guilt over it? I do. But I pretty much question everything around me and in me. I am always wondering whether or not I did the right thing. I guess I do not have the luxury of automatic self-assurance. And honestly, I'm not sure that I would want that. A little self-doubt is good for everyone. Although, I'm quite sure that I take that to a fallible extreme.

Because of the nature of Facebook, it is all too easy for words to be misinterpreted, taken out of context, or misused. We don't have the addition of facial expressions or body language in order to help us completely assimilate the true and intended message. I have done this many times . . . utterly misunderstood what someone was meaning to say. At times, the original poster could possibly have been a bit more clear, but other times it was simply due to my own filters and assumptions. I do not ever mean to do so, but I admit, I sometimes jump to broad and far away conclusions. For any of those friends whom I have done that to, I am truly sorry. Please know that it was not my intention.

Giving one's opinions is a tricky business. As Bilbo would say, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." (I find myself quoting Mr. Baggins of Bag End a lot these days for some reason.) Authenticity is a scary journey -- you decide to step outside of yourself, not quite sure where it will lead. You will make progress and you will stumble. But the trick is to always be true to yourself. I am trying to do just that, including in my communication on Facebook. I have spoken up more on there than I probably have in the rest of my life. Course, it is an easier place to do so; it doesn't take quite as much courage. But for me, it's a start.

For those of you who may not know . . .
I am a Christian. I grew up a minister's daughter, still am in fact. My political views are progressive and independent. I am, what you could possibly say, conservative in my lifestyle, but very liberal in my ideologies. I am an idealist. I am a paradox, always holding views that are seemingly contradictory on the surface. I am passionate, often intensely so. I don't believe I have all the answers, or even many of them. I realize that I have much more I can learn and am still trying to figure out many things. I believe that open-mindedness, tolerance, acceptance, and compassion are four of the most beautifully gracious and least-used commodoties in this world. I believe that people should be allowed to live their lives fully, how they feel they are meant to be, without having to be harshly judged. I believe in the capital "T" truths of the Bible . . . that it is not meant to be used as a book of facts, but rather a book of ideologies, guiding us to become better people. I believe that the things many people hold as absolutes are actually quite gray. I believe that all things are relative and must be taken circumstantially and within context in order to be understood. I believe that the Bible may be literal, may be figurative, may be somewhat both . . . and that there is no way for us to know for sure. I believe that there is no way to prove or disprove God's existence . . . I choose to follow out of faith, not fact. I believe that absolutely anything is possible, and that no one can convince me otherwise.

As you can see, I don't fit very well into any demographic's views, especially the ones that I am surrounded by, namely the midwestern Christian demographic. It's probably quite obvious to you now why I've been involved in several Facebook "discussions." I know that my views are perhaps scary to some, confusing, or maybe even downright offensive. I am not trying to offend anyone, only simply trying to express my perspectives and offer other ways of looking at things. I accept that I could possibly be wrong in every way . . . I have been wrong before and don't expect to never be wrong again. But I hope, no matter my rightness or my wrongness on any issue, that I treat others with the respect and compassion that they deserve, even if I am not receiving it from them.

I admit, I am quick to anger. The anger itself is not the problem, but it is my sometimes heated response that is one of my faults. Nothing angers me more than when I feel there is intolerance or self-righteousness. Partly because of my genetic make-up and partly because of my experiences I have grown rather hypersensitive to these qualities. And I am sure that there have been times when I, trying to combat self-righteousness, responded with my own level of it. But one credit that I will give myself is that I am willing to concede to the other side at times. And unfortunately, I have come across a number of people who do not ever seem willing to do the same. And that is a difficult frustration to overcome.

For those who may not understand where I am coming from, or where someone else in your life is coming from who has expressed frustration over intolerance and the like, I will do my best to explain. It is difficult being in the minority. No, I'm not an ethnic minority or even in a religious minority. It's nothing like that. The minority that I am in is a minority of thought -- a minority in outlooks or viewpoints. I am a liberal Christian surrounded by mostly very conservative Christians. On the surface, it doesn't seem as though there is a huge difference here, but trust me, the gap is VAST. And to be the one that is different is both immensely frustrating and exhausting. I won't assume to know how you feel or from where you are coming. For all I know, you may find yourself in a similar predicament.

But there are many people out there who do not yet understand. Some do not understand what it is like to feel this way because in their whole lives they have been surrounded by people just like them, both in background and in worldviews. They assume that most people they encounter, especially if they are also a Christian, think and believe EXACTLY as they do. They have lived in a very homogenous world and have not had to be challenged. I'm sure many of these people, if not most, mean no harm and have no intention of placing judgment on those who differ. I don't think they're terrible people. I just think they don't understand, often times because they've never had to. And perhaps a smaller group of them don't understand, and don't even try to.

I have very frequently felt stifled and not free to be myself outside of my immediate family and a handful of friends. I always knew my views were different. Everyone else seemed to feel very free to express their's and I often did not. I felt as though differing views were not welcomed, and were sometimes even demonized. There were a small number of times when I dared to voice my opinions, and luckily some of those people did still accept and love me. But there have also been plenty of times when I have been judged and felt the sting of self-righteousness. There have been times when I have been looked upon as an inferior Christian, an inferior person. Each time this happened I allowed it to stifle me again. And after so many years of feeling stifled you begin to create a volcano-complex, ready to pop at any given moment. You can only stifle your true self for so long before it begins to eat away at the crevices of your soul. It took me many parts of my soul to be chewed off before I had enough. And now, this is where I am at . . . trying to be myself, vulnerable, open, and naked.

I am a fallible being. I know that I fail to be my "best self" many times. I continue to work on that -- to be authentic, gracious, tolerant, and loving, even in the face of intolerance. And I hope that perhaps all of this can help some others to understand those of us who have had a little more trouble in taking that first dangerous step out of our doors.

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