Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why Do I Do It?

After more than eight years of participating in internet forums on various topics, I ask myself, Why do I do it? I have been misunderstood, falsely accused, misrepresented, and jerked around more times than I care to admit or remember. (And I am sure I have done all those things to others on occasion, though not with intent). So why do I do it?

It’s simple. It’s a learning experience. One of my favorite methods of learning is interaction. I love the thinking out loud part of it, the formulation of a position and the defense of it in real time, or at least in cyber-time. I like to read, to listen to lectures, to write. But none more than interaction. Interacting with those who know more than you do is always better than the opposite, but not always possible.

I have learned more about what people believe and what I believe than I could have imagined. I have interacted with people from all theological stripes. I have learned to try to defend my beliefs, to try to see what is behind an argument, and to interact with substance rather than surface. Most of these things I have learned the hard way by continually beating my head against the cyber wall. And there is no doubt that some of it has been totally wasted time. There is no doubt that I have said some things, many things, that I wish I would have not said, or said differently. But the lessons have been invaluable. Here are a few:
  1. There is no idea too absurd for someone somewhere to believe.
  2. There is no standard of proof too low for someone somewhere to accept.
  3. No matter how explicitly you say something, someone will accuse you of meaning something else. No matter how clearly you state something, someone will accuse you of it anyway.
  4. No matter how careful you are with your words, someone will accuse you of saying something you did not say. When asked to show where you said it, they will simply ignore it, and refuse to retract the accusation.
  5. It will not be long until someone questions your intellectual integrity or insinuates that you do not have the educational qualifications to participate in a conversation with them.
  6. Someone will take it personally and it will turn ugly.
  7. Some people will refuse to answer simple questions.
  8. Some people are arrogant and will not be convinced no matter what.
  9. Some people are convinced they know what you believe better than you do. So they will tell you what you believe, and correct you all at the same time. When you tell them you believe something else, they will not listen.
  10. It is virtually impossible to communicate genuine attitudes online. Voice inflection, body language, eye contact does not play well.
Here are my general rules for participation in the blogosphere.
  1. Enjoy the conversation and the learning process. One of the greatest benefits of this kind of interaction for me is that it gets me outside of my own mind. It allows me to see into the minds of others, to know what they think, and more importantly, how they think. As a pastor, I believe a key part of my ministry and particularly my preparation for preaching is understanding how the people that I minister to process information.
  2. Think about methods of argumentation and the logic being used to support or attack a position.
  3. Realize that some people are impossible. There are some people who simply will not be convinced no matter how clear a particular matter may be made. Those with vested interests will defend themselves at all costs.
  4. Do not take things personally. If your personal satisfaction depends on the affirmations of “dude_from_kansas,” you need to get a life.
  5. Control your time on it. If you cannot live without checking in on the conversation, your priorities are probably wrong.
  6. Ask questions about what people believe. Couch your assertions about their beliefs in “seems to,” “appears,” or the like in order to communicate an openness to correction.
  7. Try to be as clear and concise as possible.
  8. Try to avoid assigning motives to people.
Blogs, internet forums, and the like can be a tremendous help or a tremendous waste of time. Use them with caution.


Anonymous said...

You've made some good points, both here and on SI, but lately your sense of humor has not been so much in evidence. Cranky is the word that comes to mind...are you okay?

Larry said...

Thanks, anonymous. I am actually not cranky in the least. I get a kick out of most of it. I enjoy the conversation, the thinking, and the interaction. I wish it was live rather than on an forum. But then we would never get anythign done.

I get a little miffed when someone personalizes something that is merely addressing an issue. Or when someone doesn't substantiate a charge they make. That makes it impossible to answer. And I hate it when people become the topic rather than the topic becoming the topic. Perhaps I contribute to that as well, I am sure. I try not to.

But in general, I am not cranky. I like to discuss ideas and interact with people's ideas. Even when it gets a little heated, I have no problem. Only when people start getting personal is it a problem. Let's discuss ideas, and then walk away and discuss something else.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Chris Anderson said...

Prove that you're not cranky. I don't think you can, you pompous jerk. In fact, I think you blog for the attention...or so it seems.

(Note: that might have been "personal" and I might have tried to "assign motives" to you, but it was also "clear" and "concise." Besides, I said "seems."
All in all, I did pretty well! Even Ted Williams never batted .600.)

Scott Aniol said...

Sigh; keep up the good work Larry. It's fun, isn't it? :)

Todd Wood said...

First time for me to post on your blog, Larry.

You have me laughing tonight.

Lord bless you, brother.

Anonymous said...


I cannot help but think of all the conversations in the family room and the long cold morning walks to the Academy. Despite all the hand-wringing by some older men, I cannot help but feeling that the mental and spiritual sharpening helps the kingdom. I know I have enjoyed the challenge of expressing myself clearly and seeing how others interact with it.

Oh… BTW, …What's that dragging, a long behind? (So no one is offended that is a vintage Larryism circa 1986!)

Sam H. said...

No matter how explicitly you say something, someone will accuse you of meaning something else. No matter how clearly you state something, someone will accuse you of it anyway.

Whoaaa! What do you mean here? What are you really trying to say? Are you telling me that you think people should be LESS explicit? And just what do you mean by explicit? I sense some legalism there...Rule-maker! Why don't you just make it clear you are from the school of Gamaliel, and come clean!

Ok, I know, Chris already did a post kinda like this, but I had to do it. Larry, thanks for your thoughts--you are a good antidote to the Oprahs and Maury Poviches of fundablogging...

DAD said...

You have some excellent points. You are thinking and I am proud of you son even though I don't always agree with you. I don't care what the rest of the world thinks. Far too often, when one can not argue with the facts, they make a personal attack. Keep on preaching and stay in the Word.

Mark Ward said...

Remember that you're not here to please people - but the Lord. Just state what you believe. If I or another doesn't like what you've said, that's ok. It's your bloggsite and your opinions. I can agree to disagree - and still respect you. I'm glad you've got the time to answer your critics. You won't here too much disagreement from me! I enjoy reading your bloggsite - or, whatever you call this thing!