The Shadow of My Blog: Unintended Consequences

I love my blog.  I love that I have a place to wrestle with some of the hard parts of doing ministry. I have received countless comments, emails, and messages affirming me as a writer and a blogger.  However, this week, it was brought to my attention that there is a shadow side to blogging; the shadow of unintended consequences.

This realization came to me at three levels.  The first and most embarrassing level is the level of “unintended ping-backs.”   Earlier this month, I wrote a somewhat controversial post, “Ouch, that hurt!” in which I admitted that seeking unity of the body is hard and painful.  In that post I shared that I was not sure it was even a realistic or achievable goal.  I wrote this particular post after a rather heated conversation with someone who is a bit further to the right of the theological spectrum.  I wrote the post at a time when I was still angry, hurt, and disillusioned.  I wrote it as a lament; lamenting that my dreams of unity have not been achieved.  I wrote it as a confession; confessing that I am not strong enough, wise enough, or committed enough to live out this part of the vision.  I wrote it as a technologically challenged person, not realizing that when I created the link to the vision statement o f Embrace Richmond, I was also creating a “ping-back” which showed up in the “comments” on the “About Us” page of my non-profit.

As you can imagine, having the founder and Executive Director’s personal concern over the true achievability of Christian unity linked to the vision statement of the non-profit with that express vision, caused quite a stir.  I learned a valuable lesson, the lesson of “unintended ping-backs.”  This mistake was easy to fix.  All “Ping-backs” have been disallowed on the Embrace Richmond website.  The technology that created the problem will now keep it from every happening again.

The second level of unintended consequences is one that is far more difficult to correct.  It is the shadow of “unintended wounding.”  Most everyone who knows me knows that I write from personal experience.  For those closest to me, this is dangerous.  While my distant readers would never know who or what  inspired a particular post, those closest to me often know exactly what sparked my reflection. While I would never write anything to intentional cause harm to someone else, I have been informed that despite my intent, I have.  I wish I had an easy fix for this but I don’t.

If I did not write from my personal experience, I would have nothing to write.  If I steered clear of controversial issues, this blog would be quite boring and would not serve to advance dialog on issues that I am passionate about.  The only solution I can see is that of grace and forgiveness.  I am far from perfect.  In my effort to get my point across, I may use terms that some find unwise.  While I have tried to speak the truth in love and have made every effort to be sensitive to the various views of my readers, I write from my personal vantage point and with my own individual voice.

If you have not figured it out by now, my approach to ministry cannot be easily classified and put in a box.  For years, I have felt like my voice was not allowed in some circles.  I created this blog for people like me to find their voice.  I am passionate about social justice and I believe sharing the gospel is done best in the context of personal relationship. Obviously there are many who will disagree with me.  Rather than pretend we all agree, I want to use this blog to create a space where we can share our individual perspectives in a way that is respectful yet totally honest.  I ask for your forgiveness if my words have offended and for grace and mercy for comments that may in the future.

There is a third consequence that is equally as dangerous.  It is the shadow of “unintended projection.”  Occasionally people have assumed that I meant one thing when I actually meant something else.   I have seen this happen in several ways; people reading themselves into my comments or assuming I have a particular agenda when no such agenda exists.  I have also seen how dangerous it is to use words that stereotype a group of people.  In the “ouch” post, I used the term “neighbor’s to the right” to refer to those on the far right of the theological spectrum but found that people were reading that comment as anyone to the right of me, which was not my intent.  We all know language is tricky and sometimes I use it poorly.  The only solution I see to this issue is honesty.  My hope is that if someone finds something I write to be divisive, they call me on it either through a comment on the post so that everyone can learn, or a personal message.  There is no way I can anticipate how every word I write will be received by all the readers who may read a particular post.  The only way I can grow and learn, is to have people share with me how a particular post was received.

While my blog has caused me a lot of pain this week as I learn the lesson of unintended consequences, I still love my blog and I hope you do to.  For those who disagree with my ministry methods, I am sorry but I am who I am.  Please grant me grace.  For those whom I have wounded, please forgive me.  I truly believe the only path toward Christian unity is honesty and open dialog and I hope to create a space for both.  Thanks for loving me enough to stick with me on this journey.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Shadow of My Blog: Unintended Consequences

  1. Lynn

    Very deeply thought through. Beautiful. You challenge me to better myself.

  2. Wendy, as one who shares your passion and your propensity to “vent” I admire your honesty. Most of all I admire your integrity, and your willingness to admit — to yourself — and others that a) you’re “only” human, b) that we can often unintentionally others, c) that others may often misunderstand our transparency and sense of urgency.

    The more I know you–and of you–the more respect I have for you. Keep it real, sister!

    Hugs,
    Mary

  3. Jonathan Goldwire

    I read your blogs often but don’t leave a lot of replies. They reflect the way I am feeling more than you know. I love this post. Wendy, I don’t think your writing comes to bring peace, but a sword. We need more swords drawn to combat the complaceny in Christianity.

  4. Oh, yes, I can relate. Actually, the ping-backs is a new one, but I don’t think I have blog associations that will cause this. But the last two, the fact that public communicators hurt people unintentionally and are often misunderstood is something that has always been and always will be. When it comes to sermons especially, I’ve learned that the real work and ministry happens in the conversations and clarifications the following week.

  5. HP

    Wendy, I feel ya. As you’ve expressed in your post, the work of pouring our hearts into ministry, and the relationships we experience along the way, is hard. As you have shared your frustrations with different experiences and people, I’ve admired the grace with which you’ve spoken and written about your challenges. While I’ve heard your frustrations with different situations, I’ve never experienced you attacking other people. It has always come across to me as a matter of sharing your questioning process, and “thinking out loud” for the sake of transparency and as a way of inviting others’ input. Others may feel hurt from time to time, but everyone should be aware of the risks and rewards of coming along side people who are called to prophetic, radical ministries. Many people leaving the safety and comfort of church pews will look to connect with Christ’s mission in you, just as they did with Jesus, as a way of coming in touch with a deeper, stronger current of God’s love, one that they want in their lives and don’t feel moving through their congregations. It seems to me that your ministry is intended by God to put people in touch with these currents, not only in the experience of serving the “needy”, but also in the spiritual formation processes underlying relations with one another. If I just want to get wet, there are many pools and ponds I can swim in. If I want to believe in the force of the water, I can stand on the bank and gaze out at the rapids. If I want to feel the force, I can float the river in an innertube. But if I want to learn the full extent to which that force actually supports my life, I will have to enter the rapids. While there are many people whose faith walks enter into the “rapids of God’s love” running through our city, you are among the few whose life work extends invitations to enter the rapids with you. Along the way there is rejection, holding hands in the shallows, and “wild rides” that leave us gasping for breath. All of it……exhausting at times, exhilarating at others. There are rights, lefts, progressives, moderates, blacks, whites, and every other kind of Christ follower in the flow. I get along with some better than others but have come to embrace the fact that those I have the greatest challenges with often come bearing the gifts of “reasons” and “seasons” in the rapids that bring the most growth. Sounds like you’ve had a pretty wild ride of your own recently. God gave you a great gift for sharing such rides in writing. Thank you for blessing us all with your willingness to take risks with that gift.

  6. wmccaig

    As I read all your wonderful comments of support, I realized why I have fought so hard to retain my right to write as God leads: this blog has become the closest thing I have and likely ever will have to a pulpit. And Howard I love your river analogy!

  7. Wendy – before I say anything – I have to say just how swell I think you are. You inspire me and continue to encourage me to aim higher and not EVER EVER settle for the status quo. I cannot begin to tell you how great a gift this is. You are one of the few people out there that I can jive with. There are a multitude of authors that writing inspires me, but I feel so fortunate to be occassionally ride in the wake and be a part of your world.

    I say full force forward – no regrets. There are often days when we respond with emotion that we make mistakes – I expect the ping back issue left you chagrined, but as far as rocking boats – rock, rock, rock away – shoot capsize the derned thing – maybe that’s what is needed to help move folks into Howard’s proverbial river 🙂

    I am always so proud of every accomplishment you have (and there are many – most I’m certain you aren’t necessarily even aware of).

    I pray for you regularly that God will continue to fortify you so that you can continue to serve Him wherever he calls you!

  8. HP

    “Trust the Stream”

    http://www.inwardoutward.org/2010/03/06/trust-stream

    Once we get accustomed to noticing the stream, and we spend more time near the stream, taking from it what is being given, there comes another step: actually getting into the water and resting in its flow. Even when the flow is a torrent, we know we are safe. We trust the flow. We become non-resistant. We become receptive. We trust the power of the divine presence, which longs to take our one little life to its divine destination. Even if we’re in deep water, we trust the flow and are not afraid.

  9. Pingback: Clarification: I am not really advocating chopping off parts of the body « Wendy McCaig

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