Monday, February 17, 2014

Being Afraid to Speak Up

There are probably 4-5 finished blogs sitting in the "drafts" section of my blog dashboard. My thoughts in them are pretty complete, I think I've said it about as well as I'm going to, I've just never hit "publish."

Usually it's because I'm afraid.

I've gotten very comfortable sharing my opinion on some serious topics. I am never afraid to post something about introversion, depression, or my opinions on movies. I've had practice articulating my thoughts on those subjects, I can speak from experience, and they're typically not all that controversial.

But there are other things, other thoughts and opinions, that I am just terrified to post.

I've been trying for about a week now to write a blog about why I have chosen not to have children. I was writing it partly in response to a conversation I had on Facebook, but the subject quickly became much more emotionally charged for me than I expected and I had to back out of the discussion. I hoped maybe I could pull together my thoughts and articulate it better as a blog.

Well, I pulled them together, I think they're about as articulate as they're going to get, but I am just too scared to publish it.

What if it comes across as angry and reactionary because I'm still emotionally connecting it to that frustrating Facebook conversation?

What if others respond angrily and simply label my opinions self-centered and childish without listening to my reasoning or even bothering to think about it from my point of view?

What if someone who is a mom feels like I'm disregarding her role in society or telling her she made the wrong choice?

What if I think it's articulate now, but ten years from now I look at it and realize I was being ignorant and stupid?

What if I hurt someone with my post, who then responds angrily and hurts me with their post, and then everybody's just hurt and I haven't accomplished anything?

I look at some of the big name Christian bloggers who share their thoughts on the big controversial subjects all the time, the ones where it's hard to even start talking about them anymore because they're so emotionally fragile people just charge in already feeling strongly about the subject without even listening what anyone else has to say... and I feel completely exhausted and overwhelmed and think, "How in the world do they do it?"

I don't want to hurt people with my words. I want to be clear about what I think and feel but not if it come at someone else's expense. But, to be completely honest, I also don't want to hurt myself with my words. Sometimes I think I stick to safe subjects because it's less likely that somebody is going to react negatively to it and make me feel bad about myself.

Good writing is vulnerable, but being vulnerable means it hurts when people hit you back, and if I'm not ready to deal with that, maybe I'm not ready to speak about it yet.

Is this extreme caution a bad thing? I don't know. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes I've forged ahead, posted something I wasn't sure I was ready to post, and got an overwhelmingly positive reaction from it. Other times I've posted something and realized shortly afterward that I did it all wrong. There are times where I have to just do it and be willing to say it even if it scares me, and other times when I'd have been better off keeping my mouth shut. I'm still trying to find the discernment to pinpoint when it is the right time to share something -- when I am ready and when my potential audience is ready. Sometimes, with some subjects, that may be never.

So one of these days you might get to see that blog about children. You might not. But either way, thank you, my readers, for letting me share what I have thus far. Sorry this post doesn't really have much of a point... It's just a musing on how blogging serious thoughts can be scary, and it really makes me appreciate all the ways you've all encouraged me and made me feel free to share my heart with so many of you via this blog over the past couple years.

1 comment:

  1. I can appreciate being afraid of inadvertently offending someone by discussing a subject about which people often come out swinging anyway. Even if you don't trust your diligence, trust your nature. You're compassionate, thoughtful, humble, and fair-minded. I think the likelihood of outrage is pretty small, given the kind of person you are.

    I'm not constrained by fear, but this post has occasioned me to finally address something that's been on my mind for quite awhile now, and which I touched on awhile back when you wrote your piece, Talking About Depression Now. You may recall that I messaged you privately when I read that one, but only to let you know that I had read it and that I was not ready to discuss it.

    In 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of blog posts about depression and anxiety. They were well received and I had a lot of strong feedback on them. I felt good about sharing my experiences as much because it helped me to organize my thoughts and to put them out there as it was because I felt something useful was coming from it. I wrote with a purpose: to help people.

    Throughout last year, though, the feedback waned dramatically. At the same time, I began seeing posts by celebrities being shared and discussed a lot more often. Friends of mine who stopped commenting on my pieces were asking me if I had seen these posts by Wil Wheaton, Allie Brosh, et al. I can admit now that I had some sour grapes about it. I felt petty and resentful. I don't recall anyone really sharing any of this stuff before I started writing about the subjects, but then it sort of started to feel like water cooler culture had sprung up and supplanted me. (I'm not at all trying to claim any kind of credit here; I know the blogosphere was discussing depression long before I started. I just didn't see anyone I personally knew sharing or discussing that kind of content until after I did.)

    Sure, I'm grateful that these people are out there chipping away at society's poor understanding and perceptions about mental health. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I was already doing that before it became Internet-cool, and I resented being ignored for my own such posts.

    So, I quit. I quit reading their works and I quite writing any of my own.

    From there, it was pretty easy to quit writing about all kinds of subjects. After all, if I was authoritative on anything, it would surely be depression. If there was no use for me to talk about that anymore, then why did the world need to even be bothered with what I thought about social justice, healthcare, economics, or the other topics I used to explore in my blog?

    It isn't fear of a reaction that stops me from writing these days. It's that I've processed the reaction I've already had, and I've concluded that the world frankly doesn't need me contributing to its white noise. I still feel that urge to write. Sometimes, I've given into it only to wind up deleting instead of publishing.

    As you may recall, I adopted a filter process from Craig Ferguson:

    Does this need to be said?
    Does this need to be said by me?
    Does this need to be said by me, now?

    I can't answer whether what you have to say needs to be said by you now. That's for you to decide. But for whatever it's worth, I appreciate reading your perspective and insights. Sometimes you discuss topics that I don't explore much (faith being the biggest), but even then, I do appreciate what you've had to say or ask.