Holding my temper (well, trying to)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we talk to each other, how we talk about each other. I recently read an article about the decision made at a parish in Wisconsin to only allow boys to be altar servers. My intent this blog is not to debate whether or not the decision made was a good one of for good reasons; what I want to talk about is what I read in the comments section. Because it make me sick to my stomach.

There were a few comments that expressed dismay or agreement with the decision in a respectful manner. But the vast majority of the comments were horrid. People were calling each other names, people were screaming at each other (yes, capslock included), people were insulting the intelligence of others, etc, etc. You get the idea.

One commenter in particular made my blood boil. He began his comment by saying that anyone who knows anything about theology knows…(insert his position here)…is true. He then concluded by telling people to disagree to leave. This was reiterated several times. I know that, for me, one of the quickest ways for me to get defensive is to feel like someone is insulting my intelligence. And so I drafted comment after comment where I put him in his place (after all, I’m the theologian!). I kept writing things that were angry and hurtful. It was so tempting to just jump in and join in the ad hominem attacks, to just start insulting people left and right for their (insert a bunch of mean things) opinions, because obviously, they have to be (insert insult here) to believe what they do.

Luckily, I started listening to that little voice in the back of my head (sounds an awful lot like my old spiritual director) that was suggesting that, perhaps, insulting people and trashing their opinions was not the best way to encourage discussion and dialogue. When I finally posted my comment, it was simply a call for respect amongst the commenters.

It’s hard for me to hold my temper sometimes, especially when I feel like I’m being insulted. But I’ve also learned, growing up in a family that is far more conservative than I am, that yelling and getting upset and calling names doesn’t help the situation. We need to find a way to keep talking to each other, to keep listening to each other, even when we don’t want to. I don’t have any answers, but I am going to do my best to keep my cool. Turns out, that advice to count to ten before speaking applies when commenting on articles on the internet.


4 thoughts on “Holding my temper (well, trying to)

  1. Ha! Good for you, you’re better than the rest of us. I couldn’t come up with anything respectful either, so I bailed on that conversation too! The one that drove me crazy was from someone who said that the progressives need to learn that they created these problems (um, how?) and that we are perpetuating them in our dominance (ha!!!) of the American Catholic church. Well, blow me over. I had no idea anyone had that perspective (which is my polite way of responding). I believe the first part of their statement was a reflection upon their negative opinion of Vat II.

  2. Years ago on some Catholic message-board site or other (I forget now which one) I saw in their “Posting Guidelines” the suggestion that every post should be considered prayerfully between the writing and the posting. Words I’ve always tried to take to heart.

  3. I’ve often found my blood boiling when I read comments on articles, too; it doesn’t seem to matter what the content of the article is — there are always plenty of people ready to snark at the author, at other commenters, etc. It can be discouraging to see how eager people are to judge, pontificate, and put down without any heart open to how those words might be received. And it’s discouraging to me that these types of threads immediately inspire a similar reaction in me — the desire to jump into the fray and “tell people off.” I think considering posts prayerfully is a good practice to get into — I’ll try to remember that moving forward.

  4. Absolutely, I hate seeing what it brings out in me when I respond. Am I trying to hide away from a challenge, or avoid negative feelings? To some extent, yes, I’m sure, but for most part its avoiding behavoir I have decided I do not want to engage in.

    I love the idea Josh, of prayer before posting. It might also cut down on some long winded, not well thought out posting too! We get a lot from writing our thoughts (or reading others) even if its in process though; I wouldnt want anyone to think they have to so carefully compose that it becomes intimidating. Or that you have to have doctorate to write a good post. Quite the opposite many times; just because someone has knowledge on a topic doesn’t mean they know how to communicate it or put it to use.

    And that’s the brilliant thing about theology for instance, as is true with other fields too, that we are talking about (well, supposed to be talking about) things that are fairly universal experiences that many relate to. I think about the mechanic who really has to know a great deal about all kinds of fields-chemistry, engineering, physics; they have creative scientific minds to understand how things work and how to fix and create them. And I think the most brilliant part of it all is that we learned these things through observing/interacting with nature and experiencing life.

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