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.