I’ll do better

My heart, heavy; my emotions, swirling; but my mind, clear; I’ll listen to all three and hopefully communicate my thoughts well. My last post, the one about Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, received responses that surprised and discouraged me. An article intended to highlight issues that could harm women and support an organization that serves women, was perceived by some to be chauvinistic and mean-spirited. The article led to a few conversations, some private and some public, and they affected me significantly.

I was ready to quit, to stop writing and speaking about anything other than feel good topics. I contemplated taking my ideas and keeping them between me and my family. I was sick of being considered hateful, judgmental, and cruel. I’m none of those things, yet some hold that perception. Why? Primarily because I believe killing people is wrong, homosexual behavior is wrong, divorce is wrong, and I submit myself to God’s authority. While these positions are unpopular and fuel those perceptions, the medium of writing vs. the medium of conversation contributes as well.

I recently spoke to a group about why I believe divorce is wrong and a woman came up to me afterwards. She told me how her husband had treated her and her boys very badly and eventually started a romantic relationship with someone else. Finally, he divorced her. I was ready for her to contend with my ideas, and accuse me of insensitivity and ignorance.  However, this woman told me I had a tender heart, and how she completely agreed with what I taught. She believed I wasn’t mean or chauvinistic in my approach or tone. My point was still unpopular and I didn’t shy away from it, yet she wasn’t offended, why? I think the difference was proximity.

I hope they weren't being sarcastic.

You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever read too much into a text or email. A phrase is misconstrued, sarcasm is missed, or intent is assumed, and the dialogue goes downhill, fast. A blog shares those pitfalls, and reading one can feel like you’re being talked at, or down to. But when I speak with people, especially one on one, I’m able to listen, to try to understand, and offer truth in a conversational, sensitive manner. There’s something powerful about body language, tone of voice, and looking in someone’s eyes, and none of those occur when you read a blog. While the issues are sensitive, it’s the method of communication that was exacerbating them. When I better appreciated the obstacles inherent in this medium I decided I would not be silent. However, I also decided I would be even more careful with my words.

For example, if I speak on issues that deal specifically with women, I’ll try to quote as many women as I can. A friend pointed out that men lack empathy when they speak about abortion or birth control. She’s exactly right. I can’t possibly empathize with a woman in those areas, but my lack of empathy doesn’t also mean I lack sympathy. When I write about these issues I picture my wife and wonder how they affect her. Anytime I talk about marriage or pregnancy I think about how my words will sound in the hearts of my four sisters, one is married, three are single. It’s clear I need to do a better job, and I will.

When I began writing this post I intended to discuss a troubling article and the comments that followed – I still plan to address it in the days to come – but, these thoughts you’ve just read have been in my heart for a while now and refused to be ignored.

I have to honor my convictions. I must seek and submit to Truth. I choose to follow the leading of God in my life. I will continue to write and speak the truth without fear of criticism, but I won’t let that courage turn to callous. I won’t compromise, but I will comfort and come alongside to the best of my ability, and as far as this medium will allow.

I hope to make you think, but I want to leave you with hope.

I want to speak the truth, but speak it in love.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:14-16

I hope you’ll continue to read.

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7 comments

  1. Brother, hard to understand the “negative” feedback you experienced regarding that post you cited. Frankly, I was amazed to read of facts and details which were not cited in the press, and were “without emotion”…just facts. Furthermore, I actually intended to suggest you to forward your post to Bill O’Reilly type media type. A couple of nights before your post, his commentary was more biased to emotions and little factual. Brother, your work [post] needed to go to the masses. And, remember 1 Corinthians 15:58…it applies to you too!

    1. Just for the benefit of those who might not look it up, here is the scripture Rick mentioned: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

      I appreciate your encouragement, and I’m humbled by your idea to send this to larger outlets. Maybe in time.

      Most of the feedback was focused on the larger issues, where my article was focused on one aspect. One friend shared the medical benefits of the pill in dealing with her condition. She’s single and not engaging in sexual activity, so abortion was a non-issue. The hormones in the pill are one of the ways her issue is treated. She had a valid point, and we talked about it. It was a good conversation. The scope of my article didn’t include her circumstance is all. Others simply felt I was dictating to women what they should do with their bodies, and being a male disqualified me from such statements. I disagree with their position, and would cite all the male OB/GYNs in the world, I could appreciate their perspective. Truth is truth, and if quoting females will help reach other females, I’ll do it. I actually think Titus speaks to the power of that method. Other people simply thing Planned Parenthood is a good program and didn’t appreciate me insinuating otherwise. They were right too, I believe Planned Parenthood is bad news.

      All in all, their willingness to share their thoughts will make me a better writer and communicator in general, so I’m thankful. Just as I am to you, who would affirm me. Thank you!

  2. Ryan, I appreciated each of these two articles. I felt you did a fine job of sticking to the facts. I think when someone is willing to lay out the hard truths, there will always be those who don’t want to hear it-myself included. I can remember when someone first questioned us about why Darlene used the pill, and specifically pointed out that it is potentially an abortifacient because of it thinning the lining of the uterus – WOW! We really had to struggle with that one, but sure enough in the paperwork for the pills it listed that, along with an eye opening amount of other potential health issues. Not something we were too happy about, but once we knew the truth, it was in our court to deal with it. I say all that only to make this point; people would rather not know the truth, than be left to face the consequences of their choices-“ignorance is bliss” is what people want to think. Frankly, you barely touched the surface of this debate, and it doesn’t surprise me that you were already hit with the “you’re a male, you can’t have an opinion” argument. I obviously don’t know who said what, but from my perspective, male though it is, you need to keep serving up the truth, even if it may be a bitter “pill” to swallow-full pun intended. I’m not sure exactly where your article stepped away from a loving attitude, but if you can improve then go right ahead, just be careful to not water down the truth for the sake of being PC.

    1. You hit on such an important point, “once we knew the truth, in was in our court to deal with it.” We’re going through that now in regard to something else. It’s so tempting to simply stop, to turn a blind eye. But we’ve anchored ourselves to the truth that God’s way is better than ours. If we believe that, then whatever we find out will be better than the alternative, assuming the alternative was wrong.

      I love that you owned you pun – I wish more people would intend puns.

      I can promise you there will be no watering down, but I will continue to improve my communication.

      Thanks for writing!

  3. Regarding writing and speaking, I once received a rebuke from a loving mentor of mine, “If people don’t think you care, they won’t care what you think.” Ouch, it hurt, even though it wasn’t suppose to. But I have never forgotten her words. I even try to remember this one in the way I deal with my kids! I also remember a certain personality test that I had to take which revealed that I like to communicate with direct bluntness, but I hate it when others take the same approach with me. Hmm. It is a process of learning what God wants us to say (regardless of how many toes will curl), and sifting out what is mainly our emotional backlash. Anger and frustration are good motivators for writing, but not so good for communication. Makes me think of Moses- he can smack the rock, if God said to, but if it is just his frustration acting- he gets in trouble. All this to say, I feel your struggle. Don’t stop writing. This humbling experience will be a learning experience that you will never forget. I’m sure that your sincerity and humbleness in dealing with the “feedback” was used to clarify your true heart.

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