One of the consequences of putting one’s head above the proverbial parapet is one can be shot at by all and sundry who take offence at what one has said or done. Many don’t do so because they know that to be true but some do so anyway either having counted the cost or finding out the hard way as is the case with many of life’s lessons.
I got to think about some of the consequences of being a blogger that doesn’t do tame and acceptable, yet tries to shake and stir those who care to read and are prepared to be taken outside of their comfort zones and have their perceptions challenged, irrespective of whether they are in “my camp” or not, when a rather angry Facebook “friend” decided to defriend me because of some of the things I had written on my Facebook page, and likely my blog too, that he took particular exception to. While I don’t apologise for writing as I did, I did feel sad this happened, as much because my mantra as a community activist is to work with disparate folk and try to find common ground with whoever I engage with and seek the common good. I also suspect (in fact I know) there are others who share my friend’s sentiments, who may feel inclined to follow suit. While I could revert to tame and acceptable (or even not at all), that would be missing the point of my deciding to enter the blogosphere in the first place.
One consequence of all this is it got me thinking about some ancient wisdom (generally a good thing) which, while I don’t always follow, is borne out to be true with each passing day.
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
One of my interests is history and one of my writings, Coleman Street’s Children, is the history of the church I attended for a good part of my life, which coincided with the occasion of its centenary (1900-2000). One of the many anecdotes I picked up, and which particularly struck me, occurred during the War. The incident took place during one of the meetings when the brothers shared. One brother got up and shared sentiments along the lines of our needing to look on the bright side of life, likely influenced by government propaganda aimed at raising the national morale. This was followed by another brother who expressed a view this was inappropriate given the situation we were in and, moreover, our Lord was the “Man of Sorrows”. This was followed by third brother, mindful that peace needed to be restored, who read from Ecclesiastes, reminding everyone that there is: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh”.
Without wanting to entertain delusions of grandeur or feelings of anger, irritation and paranoia, and mindful that too often in the past I have chosen the wrong time to speak (and also not to speak) and found on reflection that when I have spoken I went about it in the wrong way, I still feel it is right to continue blogging, unless I find a better way to share my thoughts, at least for the time being.
- For time immemorial people have spoken things that are not universally popular, yet what they said needed saying.
- Things are happening that I happen to find disturbing. I feel I can’t maintain silence on these matters and just have to speak out.
- There is stuff (tame and not so tame) I genuinely believe will be of interest to some. Blogging is my way of being able to share this. It also so happens that I often enjoy doing so – call it therapy!
- Unlike some, I am not in a position when speaking out can end up with unintended consequences, such as being sacked from my job, since I have no employer to sack me. Maybe, I can speak for some.
- We are living in a day when people who exercise their right to freedom of speech could be penalized or attacked. While not nice, I am too old to care and think I can handle it if it happens to me.
- I sense I am on my way out and I feel constrained and compelled to pass on what I know and hand the baton to the next generation.
Having had this wake up call, I will try to watch what I say in future, such as personally taking on board the “True, Necessary and Kind” advice I have previously advocated for others and seek to win over rather than alienate the likes of my former Facebook friend, not by trying to push my own point of view but by engaging as winsomely as I can, yet striving to stand by those things I believe matter. Yet I have come to learn that, however conciliatory I try to be, there will be those who take offence and the reality is it may be better to speak than to refrain from speaking because just as the Germans found out in the 1930’s the consequences of not doing so can be dire.
But I will take on board my other piece of advice – about getting a balanced life for, as I have come to realise, blogging can be a distraction that can be pleasant, despite the flak it might attract. And then there is the Reinhold Niebuhr serenity prayer to consider!
Helping out in my community with its plethora of needs, some of which, due to past involvement, I am already finding I have an interest in; encouraging my local church and the wider church, especially in its coming to terms with the opportunities to serve the community; attending to the mundane, every day practicalities of life, being a good neighbour, whoever that is; and taking care of my family, must surely take precedence over my career as a blogger!
Going back to the timely words of the preacher, we might add there is a time to encourage and a time to kick ***; a time to blog and a time to refrain from blogging. With reference to the serenity prayer, we need wisdom to know when that time is; courage when the time has come to do what needs to be done; and serenity to bide our time.