Have you ever been privy to a conversation you weren’t supposed to hear?
As a young twenty-something I went on a mission trip to Mexico to help build homes for people in dire circumstances. We stayed in tents at a camp available through Amor Ministries in Tijuana.
I had only camped once before on a youth group trip at a state park in Indiana. The threat of scorpions and tarantulas added a whole new dimension to the experience. What would I have done if I had ever found one of those critters when I checked my shoes? I may have run barefoot back across the border. On the last day one of the campers found a tarantula under where her tent had been. Ugh! I’m so glad we were on our way home at that point.
My best friend and I were in one tent and there was a group of young men in the tent next to us. One afternoon as we lay resting before dinner after working all day, we overheard a conversation start between these young men. As it was 20 years ago, I don’t remember any of the details, except that one of the young men was sharing his heart quite openly and honestly. It was really a very private conversation, but we couldn’t help but overhear.
You see, that tent lining gave a false sense of privacy. Fabric doesn’t prevent the travel of sound like actual walls. I know you know that, but it is interesting how humans can be “tricked” into a false sense of safety.
As the digital age continues to progress, I see people struggle with boundaries in regard to criticism. Without face to face interaction, we are so much more likely to point out the negative. The keyboard lends a false sense of security and we say things we might never say in person. I have probably been guilty of this myself at times.
Years ago I had a “bright” idea to do an online Bible study over the summer. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity. The idea tanked. Although that kind of thing is common now, it wasn’t then. People were afraid to interact in print for fear of having their spelling and grammar scrutinized and their ideas made public.
The upcoming generations have gotten over that to a considerably greater degree, but the comfort with social media has also led to another extreme of sharing negative opinions in harsh ways with anywhere from friends to perfect strangers. I read a lot of blogs and I feel for those poor bloggers at times when I read some of the comments they receive. You have to have thick skin to put yourself out there. So far my audience has been quite kind. Thank you!
Use care when expressing political and religious opinions. You can disagree and state your ideas without being ugly to people who think otherwise. There is a way to respectfully disagree.
Don’t condemn someone for poor mechanics in their writing. As the former teacher of students with learning disabilities, I know the courage it takes for some people to share their thoughts in writing when it is a struggle. Patricia Polacco is a children’s author I follow on Facebook. She wrote this the other day on her page: “I would like to thank you, my gracious readers, for following my daily Facebook comments. I am aware at times, there are misspellings and errors in grammar. Please remember, I am a severely learning disabled person who has over come a great deal to even be able to write, that alone, do it perfectly. In an effort to keep you close to my heart, I simply write, what I am feeling without regard to flawless prose. So I am so grateful for your understanding and I am also grateful that you are even interested in anything I have to say.” Her posts are beautiful, thoughtful, funny, and inspiring. The content is so good I’m willing to look over the mistakes.
The bottom line is, remember you are not in a tent. Anonymity may buffer you, but it could very well wound someone else if you don’t use care with your words. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security behind the screen. Common courtesy should still apply.
May we all seek more ways to build up, instead of tear down.