Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blogging: Character Building?...

I just read a very interesting little article entitled, "Can Blogging Make You a Better Person?". It outlines several ways blogging can make you better and several ways it could make you worse.

Please go read the entire (fairly short) piece but here are a couple of ways it could make you better:
  • Blogging helps you hone and refine your thinking.
  • Blogging helps you achieve greater understanding through interacting with others’ points of view, which may differ greatly from your own.
And a couple of ways it can make you a worse person:

  • Your blog topic is angry or negative, and the posts you write on it are usually rants, attacks, or “bitch festivals.”
  • Your views are stridently one-sided and there is no point in even entertaining any other views.

I've been active online in various ways for over a decade and I have to say it's truly made me a better person in the sense that I have a much greater capacity to understand others. Because I've had so many opportunities to get to know people from different backgrounds and belief systems I've come to see the world in a much broader way. When you come to know and really care about an individual whose views sometimes differ from your own, you begin to understand where they are coming from and to appreciate those differences.

The *innernets* is such a vast universe of information and dis-information that it's often difficult to separate fact from opinion. The danger exists that one might limit one's exposure to a very narrow set of views, thus cementing one's own ideology and rendering it impervious to other perspectives. The same can be said for limiting one's television, radio and/or print media sources to a single, narrow view.

But that doesn't have to be the case. I like to search out sources that disagree with one another in an effort to see both sides. Most of the time, neither tells the whole story so by comparing the two, I get a much broader and more accurate take on the subject. Likewise, I make a point of listening to CNN, MSNBC, FOX, NPR and the BBC on the radio for the news (I gave up most television news other than The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.).

Over the years my views on some things have changed while others have been strengthened. More than anything, I've come to realize that in many cases, there is no black and white. It's easy to live my comfortable and rather sheltered life looking at others who are different and think they are wrong. But you know what? When you really, truly try to understand them and everything that has conspired to make them who they are, you begin to realize that there's more to the story. What might seem utterly incomprehensible to someone with my life experiences is just *the norm* for someone else.

I think, more than anything, I've learned compassion over the past decade. I thought I was compassionate before. In fact, if someone had asked me to list my attributes that would have been near the top of the list. I went into the nursing profession largely because I truly care about others and want to help them. However, being nice to people and taking care of others isn't always the same as true compassion and empathy. It's all too easy to outwardly demonstrate kindness while inwardly thinking, "if only they would do/think/act the way I do...".

Learning to get inside the head of someone who thinks or acts differently isn't easy and it's an ongoing process. Sometimes it involves discussion and debate, questions and answers. Sometimes it gets heated but I do honestly try to understand where the other person is coming from. It can take awhile but each time I participate in, or even just read, a debate on a controversial topic I learn something. Seeds are planted and sometimes I eventually recognize that perhaps I was wrong. But even if my own opinion doesn't change, I gain a better understanding of the opposing viewpoint.

I think one's view of humanity is a key issue. Some tend to think humanity is going to hell in a handbasket, people are generally evil, and that if we don't vigorously (and often violently) defend our personal agenda that something of an apocalyptic nature will destroy the world. Fear, anger and defensiveness are the natural outcome of this point of view.

I, on the other hand, while acknowledging that we are all sinners, still believe that the vast majority of people have a lot of good in them and usually have good intentions. They may be misguided or make poor choices. Perhaps they've lived through terrible things which have skewed their values or left them without a strong moral compass. But even the most hardened criminal has buried within them some sense of good and evil.

I firmly believe God is in control and all the fussing and fretting we can muster won't change His ultimate plans for us. I believe God wants us to live peacefully and joyfully. I know that when one of my children has been angry or afraid it makes me sad for them. On the other hand, nothing makes me happier than to hear them laughing and having a good time. I think of God as the ultimate parent so I can't help but think this is what He wants for us, too.

The older I get, the less time I'm willing to spend worrying, fussing, being fearful or angry. I don't know how long I'll be on this earth but I do know the time is too short to spend it in negativity. I want to do good, be cheerful, have fun and spread peace to those around me. I often fail in this but I keep reminding myself of these goals and vow to do better.

I started this blog as a place for socially conscious or potentially controversial posts that don't really fit on my Tea With Dee blog. I welcome dissenting views expressed in a thoughtful and non-aggressive manner. I try to remain open-minded and the only thing I know for certain is that there is very little I know for certain. ;) I enjoy learning and expanding my understanding. I don't expect all my readers to agree with everything I post. In fact, I'd be disappointed in anyone who agreed 100% with me on every issue. My kids will tell you that I actively encouraged them to think for themselves and not merely parrot the views of their parents. I am extremely proud of both of my children for being such intelligent, free thinkers. Even though they don't agree with each other about everything, they have the utmost respect for one another because they know those views are the result of careful thought and study.

I really didn't set out to write all that; I was just planning to share an interesting article. But apparently it's something I needed to share and since this is my blog I get to do that. :)

I wish for you all a peaceful and happy day (and life). Smile at a stranger, especially the one who is *different* in some way. Hold the door for someone. Tip generously. Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight. Oops! Just a little disco from the dark recesses of my mind. Ignore it. Or not.


Parsley said...

I wish everyone was more peaceful and less hurt/angry when others don't agree with them. I actually enjoy hearing many sides of an issue and miss that respectful back and forth.

By the way...is a hippie a passivist and vice versa? Just wondering ;)

Lisa Sharp said...

During the election I watched a ton of news and was very active in politics. It was the first time I could vote for President and yet I left that spot on my ballet blank. I couldn't vote for the lesser evil and at this point I find it hard to be involved in politics because it's all about fear.

You are right Chris and I are very different but we can respect each other because we know we aren't sure quoting CNN or Fox News, we have views that are thought out and we are open to change.

I'm glad you posted this and I hope a lot of people read it. We need to focus on love and hope again. Not fear and anger.

Deanna said...

The short answer to the question re: hippies and passivism is yes, hippies are passivists but not necessarily vice versa. I think a post about the history of the hippie movement would be fun to do so I'll answer more fully in that way.

Lisa Sharp said...

I gave you an award-


Deanna said...

Thank you, Lisa!