communication, musings, social media

Dining on fresh food for thought, and not “incorrecting” people…

I woke up this morning to an interesting post by Father Nathan Monk, a dyslexic former priest and author who has an impressive following on Facebook. This is what he wrote:

I think this makes a lot of sense.

Naturally, the above post attracted a lot of feedback. Many people made points that I thought were entirely valid, even if they didn’t agree with Father Nathan Monk. Some people protested that abortion is always a terrible thing, but a private decision that is sometimes necessary to make for one’s own well being. Some were on Father Nathan Monk’s side, and congratulated him for his words of wisdom on an experience that he will never personally face. Still others pointed out that the word “abortion” has wrongly been turned into a bad word that needs euphemistic language to get around the taboo with which it is associated.

Personally, I agree with Father Nathan Monk that abortion isn’t a dirty word. I’ve even written about that topic in this blog. But I also agree with people who have emotional responses to the term. Some people have no emotional connection to abortions. They don’t see it as anything other than a medical procedure. While many people associate abortion with tragedy, others have experienced immense relief after having one. Some have experienced gratitude that the procedure was available to them when they needed it. Reactions to the abortion experience run the gamut. No one’s reaction is “wrong”, because everyone has their own story.

As it so often happens in comment sections on Facebook, some people got on a soapbox, and the topic segued a bit into discussion about other societal issues. As the discussion developed, I noticed some tension. Some people took issue with other people’s opinions and felt the need to “correct” them. I especially noticed it when someone used a term that another person found objectionable. More than a few of them responded to other posters with condescension, hostility, and criticism, rather than measured consideration. I noticed that many people chimed in on comments that were directed to other people, and they often did so with a certain haughtiness. And some went into ass kissing mode, although overall, I agree with what this person wrote…

Dearest Father Nathan Monk I totally support your comments.

Furthermore, I know you are a gifted wordsmith but for a moment I’m going to take full on offense at the cretin level witlessness of the individual who took it upon themselves to *correct* your wording.

Dear Sir or Ma’am I suggest that you desist lecturing a published author on their use of words. You can take your insulting remarks and trot right off the end of that short dock over yonder. Yeah that sketchy one that’s probably going to dump you right back into the swamp of self-righteousness that you seemed to have crawled out of at some point.

Sheesh people. Give it a rest with the gatekeeping.

Alrighty. I’m done.

Carry on my friend. And my deepest apologies if I’ve crossed a line.

After the above comment was made, someone else wrote this:

On a related note, I saw a stand up comedian a few months ago give a great response to unwelcome corrections:

“Thank you for incorrecting me”

Apparently, that quote was from comedian, Steve Hofstetter. I have never heard of Mr. Hofstetter, but maybe I need to look him up and see if I find the rest of his observations so astute. People do have a tendency to “correct” other people when they disagree with them. I think there’s a certain arrogance in assuming that one’s perspective is absolutely the only “right” one. As I mentioned up post, everybody has a story, and those stories can affect how people view things that aren’t cut and dried. It’s a barrier to communication, and ultimately, learning new things, when people come at others aggressively for saying something they assume is wrong, or just “politically incorrect”.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Years ago, I was part of an online messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. In that group, I sometimes used to post about how Mormonism had affected our step situation. It was a valid issue, as within Mormonism, there is a strong emphasis on spreading the faith and encouraging people within a family of maintaining their common belief system. For example, Mormons typically exclude non believers from their weddings, which usually take place in a temple (though some have civil weddings and then do the religious ordinance later). Mormon temples are only open to people who have “temple recommends”. The only exception is when a new temple is opened, and there’s an “open house”, which is for a set period of time. So, the fact that my husband’s daughters were converted and raised LDS, and Bill had left the faith, was a legitimate issue within the family.

There was a Mormon woman in the group who used to get very offended when I dared to bring up this topic. She insisted that I was being disrespectful to her. She claimed that I “misunderstood” and was confused by her religion, and that my “negative” comments were destructive to her. She was not receptive to “hearing” what I was trying to communicate. Instead, she focused on what she thought was my “bashing” her religious beliefs. In short, she basically labeled me a bigot, because I said something negative about her religion that she found offensive. She wasn’t willing to see it from my perspective. She just wanted me to shut up and color.

Honestly, I don’t give a shit what people’s personal religious beliefs are. It’s when your beliefs affect other people’s lives that I have a problem. The fact the Ex had decided to convert to Mormonism and raised Bill’s children LDS was a real problem that affected us, because Bill and I aren’t LDS. To be fair, I don’t think Ex is LDS anymore, either. But, back when the girls were still kids, the fact that they were LDS caused issues, because their perfectly good father was portrayed as “less worthy” simply because he didn’t have the same religious beliefs they had. It didn’t even have to be Mormonism that caused this problem. The girls could have been raised Orthodox Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness, and that could have been an issue. I was simply trying to point that out, and being specific about how the LDS religion caused steplife issues for us. This should have been okay in an online support group for second wives and stepmothers, but instead, it was a “taboo topic” that I was strongly discouraged from discussing because one person found it “offensive”.

For the most part, I think people should be heard, even if they say something that seems “wrong” on the surface. And if someone does say something that seems “wrong”, it would be really excellent if more people would simply take a deep breath and hear them out… or at least try to respond with civility, instead of rudeness and snark. Being self-righteous and condescending is not how you win hearts and minds. And if you’re not trying to possibly change someone’s perspective, what’s the point of making a comment? Especially if you’re so insufferable that they block you.

A few days ago, I made a comment to someone about how most Americans have no idea of what we tolerate. They haven’t lived anywhere else, and they’ve been fed a bunch of horseshit about how “great” America is. I wrote that if more Americans experienced living in Europe, they might be outraged by what is normal here, and not normal in the United States. I was going to specify Germany, but I realized that there are a lot of countries in Europe that offer affordable healthcare, childcare, and education. As it was Facebook, I didn’t want to make a list, because that would make my comment too long and convoluted.

I then got a somewhat hostile comment from someone in the Czech Republic, who groused about how Europe isn’t so great, because medical care in her country isn’t “good”. I hadn’t addressed this person, but she chimed in on my comment to someone else, so I explained further. I don’t think I did so in a condescending way. I simply explained where I was coming from, and she came back with swear words and rudeness, as if I had insulted her intelligence. Her point was that not all European nations are created equally. My immediate reaction was “duh”, but that’s not what I wrote. Instead, I posted that I had originally considered writing only about Germany, but realized that much of the continent is similar and I didn’t feel the need to type out the countries for a Facebook post. I added that I did that because I didn’t want to wind up in a rude exchange with a stranger. Then I finished with, “but I see that’s happened, anyway. Have a nice day.” I was surprised she didn’t come back with more snark. I probably shocked her by calling her out for being unnecessarily offensive.

One of the things I really love about my husband is that we can have conversations about anything. He’s thoughtful and considerate, and he hears what I have to say as I flesh out a thought. He doesn’t react with indignation, or break out the red pen, wanting to “correct” my opinions. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he’s always willing to listen. I think we’re both better off because of that. We learn new things, and dine on fresh food for thought. Just as a new food can be exciting and interesting, so can a considering new perspective. But it’s hard to access that “fresh food for thought”, if you are preoccupied with correcting someone else for their opinions that don’t align with your own.

Now, when it comes to abortion, I can certainly understand why many people find it a sad and abhorrent thing. I understand why some people, having had an ectopic pregnancy that necessitated termination, can’t bear to think of that action as having an abortion, even if that is technically what happened. But I can also see how someone might find abortion liberating and even exhilarating. Father Nathan Monk’s post spells out how it can be a huge relief for someone to have an abortion. It should be okay for people to be honest about their feelings without fear of being shamed. We should be encouraging respectful communication, rather than trying to squelch things we don’t want to hear or read. Imagine how much more interesting life would be, if we could consider things that are “taboo” without feeling ashamed or threatened with censure.

I imagine that we might even have fewer Trump supporters if more people could stop themselves from being holier than thou toward others. I suspect that a lot of people like Trump because he’s not “PC” and doesn’t insist that people be “PC”. I think a lot of people like it when a loudmouth jerk like Trump says what they’re thinking, without any shame or hesitation whatsoever. This isn’t to say that I think people should be going around being deliberately offensive, but more that people might not be so compelled to be deliberately offensive if they felt heard and understood, even if the other person disagrees. A basic level of respect can be a great lubricant for productive discussion and– dare I say it?– a broader perspective on life, a keener intellect, and a more interesting existence outside of an echo chamber.

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